Multi-million-pound loan deal 'is value for money'
NORTH Bristol hospital bosses insist they are getting "value for money" out of a controversial multi-million-pound loan deal.
The new Southmead Hospital, which is being built at a cost of £430 million, will cost taxpayers £37 million a year to repay under a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contract. The deal is for contractor Carillion to build and maintain the hospital.
Yesterday PFI schemes came in for heavy criticism after another NHS trust that has used one became the first in the country to call in administrators.
South London Healthcare NHS Trust will be the first in the country to be put under the control of a special administrator tasked with putting it on a viable footing.
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The problems faced in South London relate to a merger of three smaller trusts and two PFI deals that are now costing £61 million a year in interest.
Yesterday ministers said other hospitals across the country could find themselves in similar positions.
North Bristol NHS Trust is among those with PFI schemes that have not yet become foundation trusts, which were reviewed to see if they could afford the repayments.
But Steve Webster, North Bristol NHS Trust's finance director, said it represented less than eight per cent of the hospital's turnover, which is low compared to other PFI deals.
He said: "PFI was the only route available for us to build the new acute hospital facilities that patients in Bristol and the surrounding areas so desperately need."
Kingswood MP Chris Skidmore blamed the previous government for the "toxic legacy" of PFI deals.
He said: "While downgrading local hospitals such as Frenchay, the previous Labour government bankrolled the NHS on the back of private money and massive debt, which we are only just realising is slowly dragging many trusts under as they struggle to make unsustainable loan repayments."
Charlotte Leslie, the Tory MP for Bristol North West, said PFI schemes were "madness".
She said: "We've stitched ourselves up in all sorts of impossible positions."
The new Southmead Hospital is due to open in 2014. It will replace the existing Southmead and Frenchay acute hospitals, with a community hospital being built on part of the current Frenchay site and the rest being redeveloped.
As well as Southmead Hospital, PFI has been used to rebuild schools across the city and fund new magistrates' court buildings in both Bristol and Weston-super-Mare, and the construction of the £22 million leisure centre at Hengrove.