[Mrs Anne Main in the Chair] — Backbench business — Private Finance Initiative
Marcus Jones (Nuneaton, Conservative)
Thank you, Mrs Main, for allowing me to speak in an extremely important debate. I congratulate my hon. Friend Jesse Norman and others on the Backbench Business Committee on securing this vital debate. It is a crucial issue that is of great interest to my constituents, and I shall focus on that constituency interest.
Hon. Members have given a very technical analysis of PFI, its failings and what we should possibly do about such arrangements. However, in very practical and tangible terms, I want to speak for my constituents and explain why this rebate for the PFI would be extremely beneficial to them. If I may put that into context, I will be talking about the huge PFI scheme at the University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust.
Let me give hon. Members the background. A large tertiary hospital on the edge of Coventry was built under the previous Government’s PFI regime. The hospital replaced the then Walsgrave hospital, where I was born in the early 1970s. The new incarnation of the Walsgrave, as we know it locally, is undoubtedly a great hospital. When I say that, I do not just mean great as in good, although it is an extremely good hospital, but great in terms of size, because it has 1,250 beds and 27 operating theatres. The hospital is a large fish in a small pond in terms of the Coventry and Warwickshire health economy.
Since the hospital started to operate in 2001, the cost of the PFI contract has been substantial, with more than 14% of the University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust budget now consumed by the PFI contract and the obligations under it. The main problem with the PFI contract is that the costs are pretty much fixed. Regardless of patient numbers, under the contract the trust must still pay over a long period for the buildings, repairs, cleaning and provision of support services. Should demand fall or patients decide to go to another hospital in the Coventry and Warwickshire health economy, inevitably those fixed costs remain and must be borne by the hospital.