The fight for the future of St Raphael’s Hospice has been escalated to the Vatican.

Hospice chairman Dr Ron McKeran and six senior consultants from the neighbouring private hospital St Anthony’s have written to the Vatican and senior archbishops in the UK asking them to withdraw their permission to sell St Anthony’s to a commercial organisation.

They are concerned about the uncertainty the sale of St Anthony’s will cause for St Raphael’s because the hospital provides about £1m of services each year and it is unclear if in the long-term a private organisation would provide the same assistance.

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St Raphael's Hospice in North Cheam

The consultants, including two distinguished and honoured members of the Catholic church, have also raised concerns about the reputation and moral authority of the church and the potential damage to the reputation of the nuns, The Daughters of the Cross, who own both services.

The decision ultimately lies with the trustees of the charity who answer solely to Rome and if they decide to sell St Anthony’s hospital the nuns currently living on site could potentially end up living next door to a hospital carrying out abortions and gender-changing operations - things the Catholic Church is opposed to.

The consultants have also asked the Vatican to support the formation of a new charitable trust including both St Raphael’s and St Anthony’s - an idea previously rejected by the trustees. 

Dr McKeran said: "This would enable the current ethos, very special character and charisma of St Anthony’s to continue and ensure the long term viability of St Raphael’s Hospice."

The consultants await a reply from archbishop Archbishop José Rodríguez Carballo who is in charge of church assets at the Vatican.

The future of St Raphael's hospital is quickly becoming a government to government issue rather than about public healthcare.

Paul Burstow, the MP for Sutton and Cheam, is in the process of requesting a parliamentary debate with a foreign office minister to ask that the government use its office in the British embassy to raise the issue with the Vatican.

He said it was very difficult for anyone with any concerns to engage with the trustees and that their decision was a "short-term fix".

Sister Veronica Hagen, chair of trustees, said: "As we have repeatedly made clear, we have taken strong independent expert counsel on all possible options, including a setting up of a new charity.

"The proposed sale of St Anthony’s provides the most viable option for the Hospice’s long term future within the community, and for the national charity that we run providing care for vulnerable people across the world. Our international commitments means that we have to take into consideration a bigger picture. 

"The proposed new charity and company would have required a longer-term commitment, both financially and in time, from the national charity and, in the trustees’ view, at this time of unprecedented change for the health sector, had the potential to put futures of other our Works, including St Raphael’s, at risk."

Staff at St Anthony’s Hospital have raised a series of concerns about the sale of the hospital.

Debbie Singleton, head of physio at St Anthony’s, has written to the trustees after a request for a meeting, in which they could discuss their concerns, was declined.

She has fears about the future quality of care at St Anthony's after a hospital in Guildford, which was previously owned by the church and sold to a commercial company, saw a decline in its standard of care quality.