12. What steps his Department plans to take to assist hospitals with the cost of PFI payments. (81806)
A Treasury review identified savings opportunities of up to 5% on annual payments in NHS PFI schemes. The lessons learned from the PFI savings pilot will be applied to all schemes in the PFI pipeline. The previous Government left a £50 billion post-dated cheque to pay for their hospital building programme. Much of it was unaffordable and poor value for money. We are dealing with that unfortunate legacy, including the 22 NHS trusts that identified this as a constraint on their future sustainability.
I thank my right hon. Friend for his response. PFI schemes have undoubtedly undermined the financial stability of many local health economies, as is the case in Coventry and Warwickshire. Can my right hon. Friend assure my constituents that any solution to assist PFI schemes, such as at the University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust, will not be to the detriment of my constituents who use the George Eliot hospital in Nuneaton?
Yes, I believe I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. Through the process of working with NHS trusts to see what is necessary for them to become foundation trusts—for example, we are working with University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust—it is clear that action taken locally with support can deliver viability and sustainability for the future. I hope the same will be true for the George Eliot hospital, but as a separate trust it will not be as a direct consequence of the steps that are taken at Walsgrave.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s response to the original question. Poorly negotiated PFI deals for hospitals in the South London Healthcare NHS Trust are causing real financial problems and have led to the downgrading of Queen Mary’s hospital in my borough of Bexley. Does he share my concerns about this injustice, and will he ensure that my constituents get the first-class health care that they need and deserve and look again at this PFI situation?
Yes, of course. My hon. Friend understands very well indeed how difficult are the circumstances of his trust, which includes two PFI hospitals, and Queen Mary’s at Sidcup has suffered from the consequences of those PFIs. I am looking forward to the proposals on the future provision of health services on the Queen Mary’s Sidcup site. South London Healthcare is clearly an extremely challenged trust and we inherited very substantial problems there. We are looking to resolve them with it, but it will need additional national support.
In addition to struggling hospital trusts, many, many community hospitals throughout the country, such as Savernake hospital near Marlborough, are also labouring under the burden of an enormous PFI contract and having the indignity of vital local services hollowed out under that lot’s leadership on the Labour Benches. Will the Secretary of State please tell me what he will do to help those smaller hospitals with vital local services?
As my hon. Friend knows from her conversations with the Minister of State, Department of Health, my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr Burns), we are very sympathetic to her concerns. By devolving commissioning responsibilities to clinical commissioning groups, I expect the local clinical leadership, understanding fully the contribution that community hospitals can make, to be supportive of that in their commissioning intentions in her constituency and others.