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Cumbrian MP Tim Farron has called for urgent action to make sure of the security of the North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust in the wake of the dissolution of the South London Healthcare Trust.
South London Healthcare Trust, which runs three hospitals in the capital, is losing more than £1 million a week and will be run by a trouble-shooter and a new management team. It was formally warned last night that it would be the first NHS body to be taken over by Whitehall-appointed administrators under the “unsustainable providers’ regime”.
The group of ‘at risk’ trusts represents nearly a fifth of the 100-plus Private Finance Initiative (PFI) schemes within the NHS. Most PFI schemes were set up by the last Labour government and have been criticised for plunging local health trusts into unmanageable debt.
One of the trusts ‘at risk’ is the North Cumbria trust which runs the hospitals in Carlisle and Whitehaven. The crisis hit trust is currently in the process of being taken over by the Northumbria Healthcare Trust. The north east based trust has now moved from being the ‘preferred bidder’ to the ‘acquiring trust’ – and will have a say in many future decisions affecting the Carlisle and Whitehaven hospitals.
The process of takeover is due to be completed in December of this year.
Problems are being encountered because, for some trusts, repayments account for up to a fifth of their budget. Under the schemes set up in the health service, private firms pay to build hospitals, leaving the NHS to pay an annual fee or "mortgage" over 30 years or so.
Department of Health figures from September 2011 show that yearly bills are forecast to rise by 75% to more than £2.5bn in the next 18 years, because of inflation and the way the deals are structured. It means once the last scheme signed off by Labour is paid in full - in 2049 - more than £70bn will have been handed over.
According to the Health Service Journal the North Cumbria Trust anticipates a reduction in its income of around £10m in 2012-13.
PFI schemes are marred in controversy because of the massive costs for routine things like paying £466 to replace a light, £242 for a new padlock and £75 on an air freshener.
The MP said: “PFI is an incredibly dangerous way to pay for public services and sadly this has crippled many NHS Trusts throughout the country. I want the North Cumbria trust to provide clarity to residents that they are in a healthy financial state and that patient care will not be compromised. With many of my constituents choosing to use the North Cumbria trust for services like radiotherapy, what happens to the hospitals trust in the north of county, clearly has an impact on healthcare in the whole of Cumbria.”