Unite: Burden of privatisation led to spiral of deficit and debt
by Our News Desk
HEALTH union Unite yesterday blamed the impending merger of two NHS trusts on the failings and debts brought about by privatisation and PFI.
Hinchingbrooke Health Care NHS Trust in Cambridgeshire, the first NHS hospital to be privately run, and Peterborough & Stamford NHS Trust, burdened with debt from a private finance initiative (PFI) have agreed to a review of “organisational form” and will be “working more collaboratively.”
But Unite challenged the trusts to come clean on what this would mean for patient care and jobs at the skint trusts, suggesting that their statement was really announcing a merger.
“If you look at the back story you can see a double whammy of failure here of two key NHS polices — privatisation and the private finance initiative,” said Unite regional co-ordinating officer Ian Maidlow.
Profiteer Circle took over Hinchingbrooke in 2012 but pulled out in January 2015 on financial grounds, with the hospital returned to NHS management in April.
Peterborough City Hospital was built under a 35-year PFI scheme, leaving it with multimillion-pound annual debts.
In December, the National Audit Office disclosed that Peterborough & Stamford hospitals’ debts for 2014-15 totalled £38.5 million, while Hinchingbrooke’s deficit for the same period was £11.4m.
Under PFI private companies build new hospitals, for which NHS trusts are then required to pay massive rates of interest under decades-long repayment regimes.
“It is too early to say precisely what changes are being proposed to services and we will work hard to represent the interests both of our members and the integrity of the services they provide in such a dedicated fashion,” said Mr Maidlow.
“However, we fully expect that there will be a detrimental impact on service provision. Whether that will just involve additional travel for patients we are unable to say at the moment.”
Unite said that any merger would have to be approved by the trusts by April.
Both trusts said they would focus on back office services and see how they would “collaborate clinically,” but Huntingdon MP Jonathan Djanogly called these weasel words and feared a takeover of Hinchingbrooke.