Concerns raised over repayment deal for Portsmouth’s Queen Alexandra Hospital

UNDER PRESSURE Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley, has been urged to take action over hospital PFI deals
UNDER PRESSURE Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley, has been urged to take action over hospital PFI deals

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FEARS have been raised over the deal to pay for Portsmouth’s redeveloped Queen Alexandra Hospital, which is costing taxpayers £120,000 every day.

Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust must fork out £44m every year over the next 31 years in ‘mortgage’ repayments.

Yesterday it was revealed the city’s NHS was among 22 trusts listed by the Department of Health as having expressed serious concerns about the effect of deals such as these – known as Private Finance Initiatives (PFI) – on its balance sheet.

Over the coming year the trust must find £30.5m of efficiency savings, which has already led to 700 jobs being shed and the hospital shutting 100 beds since the new building opened.

MP for Portsmouth South, Mike Hancock, said the PFI contract – where private cash was used to build QA, with taxpayers repaying the debt over a long term – should never have been agreed in the first place.

He has now called on the government to intervene to get the QA contract renegotiated.

‘I said right from the beginning that in the end the trust would end up asking the government to buy them out,’ he said.

‘It was a recipe for disaster from day one. The cuts to services we have already seen were predictable and unforgivable.

‘Now the sooner the governments finds ways of getting our health authorities out of this mess the better. It should never have been entered into and was just a way for Labour to brag about how many hospitals they built.’

Under the PFI deal, Carillion, the firm which redeveloped QA, is responsible for all maintenance of the hospital, including repairs, cleaning and running the car parks.

Regional organiser of public sector union, Unison, Mike Wilson, said: ‘If the contracts can be successfully renegotiated and the money can be reinvested in services then that will be a very positive outcome.’

Ursula Ward, chief executive of Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, said the contract was not the only impact on finances.

‘We have already explored the possibility of renegotiating it, but the PFI is not the main problem facing the hospital,’ she said. ‘It is only 10 per cent of our turnover. I don’t know that we would get a better deal if we renegotiated it.

‘We really need to be working with Carillion to try and find potential savings wherever possible.’

Health secretary says health trusts are on ‘brink of collapse’

HEALTH secretary Andrew Lansley has said hospitals have been pushed to ‘the brink of collapse’ by their huge PFI debts.

His department is expected to detail plans – including renegotiation and cost-cutting – to resolve the problem in the coming months after meeting with trust executives.

He said: ‘The truth is that some hospitals have been landed with PFI deals they simply cannot afford.’

But former Labour MP and QA governor Syd Rapson said although the debt was making it harder to achieve savings, renegotiating the hospital’s huge PFI bill might not be possible. He said: ‘You can’t just change the terms of a contract.

‘Which makes things harder for us, because we have this agreement with Carillion to maintain the hospital, so we can’t reduce the number of staff working in maintenance or find cheaper ways of doing things.

‘Even the car parking charges go to Carillion, so raising them won’t make us any money.’