[Mrs Anne Main in the Chair] — Backbench business — Private Finance Initiative
Jesse Norman (Hereford and South Herefordshire, Conservative)
It seems to be true that many decisions were made from a desire to fit the financial cloth to the pocket rather than from the actual clinical needs of the patients. It is certainly true that the squeeze that these inflation-adjusted costs exert on hospitals is heavily responsible for the closure of A and E units.
Let me return now to the situation at Hereford hospital. Later PFI contracts have contained financial safeguards for the NHS, including automatic efficiency savings of 3% a year and the right for a hospital to put services out to public tender periodically. However, the Hereford contract contains neither of those safeguards. There are no automatic efficiency savings, and the contract cannot be retendered until 2029. The hospital trust is doing a valiant job, but it has little influence, legal scope or access to underlying costs which might help it to negotiate changes to the contract. Worse still, no mechanism exists by which the hospital can group together with other PFI hospitals to exercise collective influence over the PFI contractors. By contrast, Semperian has 106 PFI contracts. The imbalance in power is obvious, yet the NHS seems to have done nothing to remedy that.
For almost a year now, I have been campaigning for a voluntary rebate for taxpayers on the PFI of £500 million to £1 billion. Those are large numbers, but that goal is not unrealistic.