Peterborough Hospital PFI – Who Signed It Off?

17:15 Thursday 29th November 2012
Drive BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

Note: Answer at foot of post

CHRIS MANN: Peterborough City Hospital’s crippling debt is being described as a very serious situation. An investigation by the National Audit Office revealed that Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals NHS Trust had a £46 million deficit last year, one of the worst debt-ridden hospitals in the whole of the Health Service. .. So let’s bring in Dr John Lister now from the pressure group London Health Emergency, who’s written a detailed report looking into Peterborough City Hospital’s PFI. John, hello to you.
JOHN LISTER: Hello there.
CHRIS MANN: You’ve looked at all the hospitals actually in the Eastern Region. So put Peterborough in perspective. It’s the worst, isn’t it?
JOHN LISTER: Peterborough is probably the worst in the country at the moment, although there are a couple of similar sized ones in other cities that are on the brink of a similar scale of problems. So we’ve got a big one in Wakefield, a big one in Coventry, which are similar sized. Actually Coventry is slightly larger. And they’re also in very serious financial problems.
CHRIS MANN: Great hospital facility, but big financial problems. How do they get out of this? I mentioned the possibility earlier on to Stewart Jackson that the Government could write this off. Does that happen?
JOHN LISTER: Well it appears to be what they’re proposing to do in South London Health Care, which is the first one that’s actually gone broke because of PFI. And they brought the administrator in.
CHRIS MANN: Actually, Armageddon’s almost the answer, which is to go right to the end, go bust, go out of business, and then get taken over. At least the health care will be restarted in that way.
JOHN LISTER: Well I think for a lot of us the irony is that actually all kinds of services are going to be cut in South London, but the one thing that’s going to be bailed out is the PFI payments. And the PFI hospitals remain intact. Everything else seems to be sacrificed in order to keep that system going. And they are writing off hundreds of millions of pounds of debt down there. What stands out here is the deficit year by year at the moment is in excess of £40 million. That’s more or less exactly the amount they’re having to pay for the hospital. So this was never affordable from day one, and we should never have got into this. And Unison, who I wrote the report for, has been arguing for, is we want an inquiry into what’s happened. Who are the Directors that did this, and where are they, and why haven’t they been brought to book for this? And they’re presumably free to go and do this somewhere else.
CHRIS MANN: And let’s make it clear, the Department of Health was warned that this situation was going to happen, but they ignored the warnings.
JOHN LISTER: That’s true as well. Actually directly they are taking the decision, presumably tearing up the letter from Monitor and so forth, with a Board of Directors who many of them have been dispersed in various directions now, but they should be brought to book for this. This is hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money. This is a ludicrously irresponsible thing. It’s hard to imagine any other section of the public sector where you can misuse public money in this way and get away with it, and nobody even asking questions about who it was that did it, and where they are now.


Update: Apparently it was Malcolm Lowe-Lauri that argued for the new PFI hospital..

From Peterborough Evening Telegraph 28th September 2001:
“It is ridiculous to suggest that we want to bring in a service that we cannot then afford to run. PFI produces the same or better value for money for the taxpayer as any other method of procurement. In any case, the Treasury will only allow us to sign a PFI deal if it offers better value for money than a publicly-funded scheme. We are quite clear that our proposals have to be affordable”

And: From Peterborough Evening Telegraph 30th December 2008
“MALCOLM Lowe-Lauri, from Peterborough, will be awarded a CBE for services to the NHS.Now the chief executive of the University Hospitals of Leicester Trust, Mr Lowe-Lauri has more than 29 years’ experience in the service.”