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The News Line: News ‘Hit squads’ being sent into seven NHS Trusts! ‘HIT SQUADS’ are being sent by the government into hospitals to identify and implement savage cuts, ‘savings’ and closures so that spiralling PFI debts can continue to be paid, the Department of Health confirmed to News Line yesterday.

The ministry said the team will initially target seven trusts identified as ‘needing the most urgent support’ – Barking, Havering and Redbridge, St Helens and Knowsley, North Cumbria, Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells, South London Healthcare Trust and Peterborough.

Central to the raid on the seven trusts is the cutting of workers wages.

The ministry statement said: ‘Trusts can also save money including driving a better deal on what are known as “soft service requirements”. These include catering, portering and laundry services and go out for tender regularly – some as often as every five years.

‘There are 108 major PFI contracts in the NHS – around half of these include soft services.’

BMA member Anna Athow said: ‘Since the Tory/LibDem coalition government came into office in May 2010, the Health Minister, Andrew Lansley, has complained about the cost of PFI hospital buildings.
‘But the government continued with them and even initiates new ones.

‘It is significant that the “Unsustainable Provider Regime” being imposed in South London Healthcare Trust, now incorporated into the Health and Social Care Act, insists that PFI debts must be honoured.

‘The government is now in a bind because they want to franchise out or sell off scores of NHS hospitals to private hospital chains, but these companies baulk at the PFI costs and say that they cannot make a profit.

‘Hence, suddenly, Mr Simon Burns, Health Minister, has become the champion of renegotiating PFI deals, and recommending savage pay cuts for ancillary workers.

‘He says he has identified £1.5bn of savings, but this is only a small fraction of the £70bn of PFI debt still owing.

‘The real hit list is the seven NHS hospitals which are being lined up for privatisation; outsourcing or sell off, along with local pay arrangements. Be warned.

‘The PFI schemes must be scrapped, but for that we need to get rid of the coalition and bring in a workers government.’

Unison’s deputy head of Health, Sara Gorton, actually welcomed the Tory/LibDem hit squad measures.

This follows on from the Unison acceptance of the local government pension cuts.

She said: ‘We welcome this vital intervention to protect local health services and patient care.

‘The government needs to move fast before it is too late – other hospital trusts are also facing a mountain of PFI debt.

‘The financial crisis makes PFI worse value than ever.’

An RCN spokesman said: ‘At a time when the NHS in England needs to make £20 billion of savings, getting the most out of every pound the health service spends has never been more important.

‘Some PFI deals are hugely wasteful and contracts often run unchanged for many years, costing the NHS much more than it should be paying.

‘Rather than making short sighted cuts to staff terms and conditions, it is important that this type of wasteful spending is reviewed to ensure the taxpayer gets sound value for money from these deals.’

A BMA spokesperson said: ‘The BMA has long argued that PFI represents poor value for money for the NHS, and that the inflexibility of repayment regimes under PFI can create problems.

‘Being tied into a PFI contract can restrict a hospital’s ability to respond to difficult financial circumstances, and can ultimately lead to some inappropriate decisions.’
 
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