Cost of the new hospital is the key issue

THE local NHS Trust was last week named among a group of trusts whose private finance contracts are putting them at financial risk.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley said he had been contacted by 22 NHS trusts - including the St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals Trust - which claimed that their “clinical and financial stability” was at risk because of spiralling PFI repayments.

Under the schemes, private capital is used to fund public infrastructure projects such as schools and hospitals. The public sector body then repays the private firm with interest over an agreed time period.

Local NHS Trust chief executive, Ann Marr, admitted last week that “the extra cost of the new hospital buildings remains the key issue for us to resolve”.

But she added that a proposal had already been sent to the Department of Health, timetabling how trust bosses planned to meet Foundation Trust status by the government’s deadline of 2014.

Mr Lansley said last week: “Over the past year we have been unearthing the true impact of long PFI contracts. The fact is the figures show that some hospitals have taken on PFI contracts they can’t afford and are not financially sustainable on their current plans.

“We need to work with hospitals to solve these problems, helping them to improve their finances and their performance.”

The Department of Health is expected to detail plans to resolve the problem in the coming months, with proposals expected to include further cost-cutting and the renegotiation of PFI contracts.

On a brighter note, Ann Marr told last week’s AGM how the local NHS Trust had met last year’s “cost improvement plans” through increased productivity and efficiency.

She also saluted hospital staff for the way they handled the moves into the new Whiston and St Helens Hospital sites at a time when the number of GP referrals, outpatient attendances and emergency admissions were all on the up.

Ms Marr said the local trust was the only one to score above average performance ratings on every Care Quality Commission indicator.

And she hailed the visit of HRH the Duke of York to St Helens Hospital among the highlights of the year.