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Saturday, 04 July 2015

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Extra cash to cover infirmary PFI costs

NORTH Cumbria is in line for a share of a £1.5billion Government bailout to help it meet crippling repayments at Carlisle’s PFI Cumberland Infirmary.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley last week announced the cash, which will be dished out to hospitals over a 25-year period.

Seven hospital trusts – including North Cumbria – were found to be struggling financially due to badly-negotiated Private Finance Initiative (PFI) deals.

This controversial scheme – which works like a mortgage – was introduced by Labour to help fund new public sector developments, such as hospitals, schools and police stations. But it came under fire because organisations were then saddled with large repayments.

The Cumberland Infirmary, which was opened in 2000 by Tony Blair, was the first hospital in the country to be built with PFI funding. It faces an annual repayment bill of £18.6m in 2012/13 – around 10 per cent of its budget.

The North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs it and the West Cumberland Hospital, was among 22 which last year warned the Government they are being financially crippled by PFI repayments. Now the health secretary has announced it is stumping up £1.5billion of taxpayers’ money to help it and six other worst-affected trusts. The total subsidy will be spread over the lifetime of hospitals’ PFI contracts.

The money will be made available to the hospitals, provided they meet four tests demonstrating that they are improving their productivity, have a firm recovery plan for the future and are delivering high-quality services.

Copeland MP Jamie Reed welcomed the extra funding, but remained sceptical about both the timing of the news and the lack of detail.

“I have sought a financial bailout for a long time,” he said. “The Government responded to say that there would be no bailout just before Christmas. On the face of it, for this to be announced on the same day that the Royal College of GPs came out in opposition to the health bill, this looks like cynical spin.”


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