Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Health Minister refuses to rule out PFI for hospitals

This exchange in the recent Plaid Cymru debate about district general hospitals set alarm bells ringing.
The Private Finance Initiative (PFI) is generally agreed to have been a financial disaster in England, where it is on the verge of bankrupting some local NHS trusts. A Commons select committee condemned the use of private finance schemes to fund public services such as hospitals and schools as "extremely inefficient" because of the costly long-term levels of repayment.
Under the One Wales agreement, when Plaid was there to provide some backbone, PFI was ruled out of the NHS and rightly so.
So it was a huge concern to see our local AM Lesley Griffiths, also the Health Minister, open the door to this discredited financial system:

Bethan Jenkins: You mentioned ageing infrastructure. Under the One Wales Government, we agreed not to use private finance initiatives in the health service. So far, this Government has been silent on the use of PFI. Will you commit here today not to use PFI in the health service?

Lesley Griffiths: I am not a fan of PFI. You have to accept, however, with regard to putting money into hospitals, that our capital budget has been reduced by a huge amount and that we are not going to have the money that was available to the last Government. The more we try to say that change is not an option, the more problems we will create for the future. We have to keep reviewing services and rethinking how best to use our staff and how best to focus services on the basis of the evidence.

PFI was a Tory invention, to artificially balance the books and funnel public funding into providing profits for their friends in big business. Gordon Brown and New Labour took up the idea with enthusiasm and only now the chickens are coming home to roost. The failure of PFI seems to have bypassed the new Welsh Government.

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