The British Medical Association (BMA) yesterday condemned ‘commercial involvement in the NHS’ as it emerged that the cost of NHS private finance initiative (PFI) building deals agreed since 1997 is set to soar by almost a quarter from 2011 to 2014 to over £60 billion.
PFI debt is forcing trusts to makes cuts, as well as hospital closures under the Darzi plan.
A BMA spokesperson said: ‘That the government’s ill-judged pursuit of PFI in the NHS is going to have a devastating effect on public finances should come as a surprise to no-one.
‘But cuts to clinical care are not the only route to efficiency in the NHS.
‘The lesson of the PFI debacle should be that commercial involvement in the NHS does not equate to value for money.’
A public sector union Unison spokeswoman said: ‘PFI has put a massive burden of debt on the NHS and it is patients and staff who will pay the price.
‘PFI has not transferred risk to the private sector, it has resulted in public projects being tainted by private failure.
‘Unison has always said that PFI has been a long and wasteful experiment and it is time to bring it to a close.’
Under former health minister Lord Darzi’s ‘Picture of Health’ plans for south east London, Queen Mary’s Hospital Accident and Emergency unit in Sidcup will be closed, and maternity services downgraded.
This is because the other three South London Healthcare Trust hospitals – Lewisham, Woolwich and Bromley – are committed to paying PFI bills, limiting their scope to cut fixed costs.
A St Mary’s Hospital, Sidcup, a Unison member who could not give her name because of the trust’s policy on public statements, told News Line yesterday: ‘I’m terribly concerned.
‘People living in Sidcup will now have to travel to Bromley or Lewisham.
‘St Mary’s A&E, by the end of August-beginning September, will close from 12 midnight to 8am the next day.
‘But the last patient will have to arrive by 8pm because you need that time to see everybody.
‘We are all disgusted. We keep being told it is for the benefit of patients!
‘They are also telling us that because of the European Working Time Directive we can’t count on doctors to give us the service we need.
‘We’ve had marches. All the unions have lobbied MPs and had meetings.
‘The government’s Picture of Health plan was decided months ago; it was all decided by Lord Darzi some time ago.’
More than 100 NHS trusts are operating PFI contracts agreed since 1997.
Repayments during the next spending review period, from 2011 to 2014, will reach £4.18 billion, according to Department of Health (DoH) returns to the Treasury, released under the Freedom of Information Act.
The returns show the £60 billion total cost of the schemes to taxpayers is more than five times the capital value of the buildings.
Annual payments will rise from less than £500 million in 2005, to £1.5 billion by 2014, peaking at £2.2 billion by 2029