Private Finance Initiative still threatens NHS future

There is a justifiable anger against the odious slurs cast on the NHS by the US health insurance companies and reactionaries of every stripe as they strive to undermine President Obama’s health care plans.

Roy Farrar

While contrasting the benefits of our NHS with the US so-called health system – whereby US health insurance companies have acted for years as ‘death committees’ through the withholding of treatment to people on any specious grounds – we do not ignore New Labour’s role in the relentless undercutting of the principles of the NHS!

Although PFI schemes have been reduced in number over the last two years, the mountain of debt already piled up by New Labour policies will continue to cast an ominous shadow over our NHS for years to come.

PFI profiteering

Of the 133 new hospitals built since New Labour came to power, 101 were financed under PFI. There are 149 PFI hospitals in Britain, valued at £12.27 billion. But a recent report by University of Edinburgh academics shows that the NHS will pay £70.5 billion for them.

Repaying the debt of PFI financing eats up well over £8 out of every £100 of one hospital’s budget in London, as against a 5.8% debt rate for conventionally built hospitals. Half the larger PFI-financed hospitals are in financial difficulties compared with a quarter of non-PFI hospitals (Guardian).

Lloyds and RBS banks dominate the market in lending tens of billions of pounds to hospitals built under the PFI scheme. According to this new report the banks, bailed out by the state with taxpayers’ money, “continue to charge excessive risk premiums to the taxpayer”.

Professor Allyson Pollock of the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for International Public Health Policy said: “Instead of using the opportunity of the taxpayer bailout (of Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland) to re-open the contracts and negotiate better rates in favour of the public sector, the UK government is allowing the banks to restore their balance sheet by charging relatively high rates of interest for PFI schemes.

“The increased costs of servicing the debt are met from NHS annual budgets, and result in reductions in the money available for services.”

Pinderfields and Pontefract Hospital

No to any PFI wage cuts

Workers at Pinderfields and Pontefract hospitals in Yorkshire are voting in a consultative ballot for strike action. Around 400 members of Unite and Unison are affected. The two hospitals are being rebuilt in a PFI project and the hospital trust bosses have seen an opportunity to cut wages and conditions in the reorganisation.

The new pay bands initially affect maintenance and security staff but if they get away with cutting those workers’ pay, they will obviously try to attack other workers.

The consultative ballot closes on 1 September.