Of course we understand that the cost – literally – of transforming Queen Alexandra into a super-hospital was a Private Finance Initiative deal.
The most common way to describe the PFI deals is that they are like mortgages – they afford the chance to carry out huge-scale work and pay off the costs over the long term.
Most people should be pleased at the end result; after all, we have a hospital to be proud of and at The News we regularly report on pioneering surgical procedures, the da Vinci robot being just one.
However – and there is always a however in these cases – while we understand the benefits of the PFI cash injection, that does not necessarily mean that we approve of the consequences, and we report the latest of another of these today.
Parking has long been a bugbear at QA – as it has been at many PFI hospitals. The problem is that the car park is one of the areas where the NHS’s ethos of care collides with the hard-headed business mindset of the PFI firm.
Carillion sees the car park as an easy way to make money – while patients and their families often feel aggrieved and exploited for being charged huge amounts while in a vulnerable state.
And when you see that Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust spends about a tenth of its income to meet its annual PFI obligation, and that patients feel fleeced as well, it’s hard not to be angry. However, there aren’t easy answers to this problem, as renegotiating PFI deals is an infamously difficult task.
However, we would ask Carillion to note several things. While it is a private company, it is essentially operating a public car park and its tariffs should reflect that.
We also believe it should pay more attention to the knock-on effect of high prices, as seen in the fact that visitors to the hospital have been trying to buy passes from local residents to park in their street. There is a wider social responsibility here.
And we hope Carillion can introduce more discretionary rates – the equivalent of season tickets – for the long-term sick.
Anger is building, and Carillion should take action to assuage this. We hope it will.