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Proposal to Build Six new Hospitals Met with Rage

While the government will approve the plan for six new private finance initiative hospitals today, the proposal has enraged those hit by cutbacks// in their budgets.

The announcement has signaled the government’s commitment to continue the largest hospital building programme in the history of the NHS but has infuriated public health specialists and training hospitals, which were to cut their budgets to hold down NHS deficits.

Under the plans, , Bart’s and the London will lose £3.7 million, Guy’s and St Thomas’ will lose £4.7 million, the Royal Free £2.1 million and St George’s £2.2 million.

The money is expected to come from budgets set aside for education and training for this year, which is already half over. One hospital manager said yesterday “Lord knows how we are going to make these kinds of cuts when the money is already committed.”

So far the impression that is given was that the hospitals would not take the cuts lying down.

The Health Service Journal has also reported that public health spending has been targeted. The department is planning to set aside a £350 million 'contingency fund' to help to bring the NHS back into financial balance.

This will be sourced from money devolved to strategic health authorities (SHAs) this year from central funds. The funds were devoted to medical education and training, performance-related pay for GPs, public health, clinical excellence awards, and services like walk-in centres, out-of-hours services, and NHS Direct.

Many public health specialists are furious. Professor Rod Griffiths, the president of the Faculty of Public Health said, “I’m very disappointed that something as important as this has been so clumsily managed.

“The overspends have not been caused by community medicine. It is poor commissioning and poor management of acute services.”

In this financial year the department is projecting a gross deficit for the NHS of £883 m illion, against £1.2 billion last year. This is planned to be offset by a the £350 million contingency fund, £415 million from savings by SHAs, and £135 million surplus from primary care and acute trusts, thereby achieving a net surplus of £17 million.

However none of these problems have prevented the ministers from announcing another £1.5 billion for six new PFI hospitals to be built for University Hospitals North Staffordshire, Salford Royal Hospitals, Tameside and Glossop NHS Trust, Walsall Hospitals, South Devon Healthcare, and University Hospitals Leicester.

Andy Burnham, the Health Minister, said: 'We are delighted to be able to give the go-ahead for these new hospitals. This is great news for the hundreds of thousands of patients who will benefit from the modern, bright new buildings.

'The new facilities will not only be the best in terms of design and quality, but they will be affordable well into the future.”

The department has promised that the six hospitals would have far more single rooms than traditional NHS hospitals, with half the beds in single rooms. The standard of accommodation and facilities is expected to be a big leap forward. The first of the new hospitals will open in 2010. Andrew Lansley, the Shadow Health Secretary, said: 'The reality is that the NHS financial crisis has resulted in over 20,000 job losses in NHS hospitals, and has raised the spectre of some of these hospitas closing.'


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