Devizes MP Claire Perry raised the future of Savernake Hospital and its finances during health questions in the House of Commons on Tuesday, July 12. She asked the Minister for Health, Simon Burns, “to look at all hospitals labouring under an uneconomic PFI burden and will he meet with me to discuss the Savernake situation specifically.”
In his reply Mr Burns said: “Can I tell the honourable lady that work is going on on the whole issue of PFI and the NHS to ensure value for money and given her concern, if she’d like to come and see me about this particular case, I’d be more than happy to see her.”[PFI or Private Finance Initiative is widely used to fund schools, hospitals and other infrastructure projects. Repayments generally cover capital building and fit-out costs as well as maintenance over a contracted number of years. It’s rather like taking out a mortgage and has the advantage of not increasing the government’s debt.]
Speaking afterwards, Mrs Perry said: “Tax payers are now shelling out almost one million pounds a year in PFI unitary charges for the Savernake redevelopment and yet we have seen a big reduction in our local services including the loss of our minor injuries unit.”
She went on: “The future for hospitals like Savernake is quite uncertain given the size of their PFI commitments…I am determined to get local services back in our local hospitals and we need to get them on a sound financial footing for this to happen.”
The uncertainty about the future of hospital PFI contacts has arisen because of the coalition government’s major restructuring of the NHS. At present the primary care trust (in this case NHS Wiltshire) pays the PFI charges.
Under Mr Lansley’s plans the primary care trust will disappear in 2013 and those costs can hardly be passed directly to the new GP-led clinical commissioning groups. The Department of Health has so far given no indication as to which of the new or existing NHS bodies will pay these costs.
From 2005 the annual PFI charge for the new Savernake development was just over three-quarters of a million pounds a year. For the year 2011-2012 it has risen to an estimated £925,000. This does not take into account payments to NHS Wiltshire by other health bodies that use the buildings.