Hospitals say PFI contracts will undermine efficiency savings drive

Up to 22 hospitals say their PFI contract may act as a barrier to achieving clinical and financial sustainability, according to health secretary Andrew Lansley.

Mr Lansley said PFI contracts worth a total of £12.6bn exist in the NHS, with some continuing until 2050.

He said some hospitals have been ‘landed with PFI deals they simply cannot afford’, warning that this could undermine trusts efforts to make efficiency savings.  

Mr Lansley said: ‘Like the economy, Labour has brought some parts of the NHS to the brink of financial collapse. Tough solutions may be needed for these problems, but we'll help the NHS overcome them. We will not make the sick pay for Labour's debt crisis.’

NHS Confederation deputy chief executive David Stout said while PFI projects provided the NHS with some ‘much needed’ new buildings, the deals were devised at a time when NHS funding was growing.

Mr Stout said: ‘PFI contracts are long term deals lasting up to 25 years but, in order to respond to the current unprecedented financial challenge, we will need to close some services or parts of hospitals in order to invest in more efficient services elsewhere that are better for patients.

‘With resources locked into PFI contracts, we will find it harder to make these vital changes. There is a real danger that we will be paying for hospitals that are not being fully used.’

But Labour shadow health secretary John Healey said Mr Lansley is trying to 'offload blame for the present problems his policies are causing in the NHS'.

He said: 'The reality is that all hospitals are being forced by the Tory-led Health Bill to make deeper cutbacks, as billions are wasted on new bureaucracy in their huge NHS reorganisation.'

Unison also said the government is ‘shedding crocodile tears’ over the costs of PFI contracts in the NHS.

Dave Prentis, UNISON general secretary said: ‘It’s a bit rich for Andrew Lansley to complain about the cost of PFI, when it was the Tories who pioneered its use in the NHS.  And, against all the evidence, they are still ploughing ahead with major new projects regardless of the cost to the taxpayer.

‘Instead of shedding crocodile tears over the looming hospital crisis, the government should be stepping in to help.  Instead it is piling on the misery by demanding £20bn from trusts in so-called efficiency savings.’

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