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Hospitals are in crisis
The Labour Government inherited years of underinvestment and run-down public services and while I am no fan of private finance initiatives (PFI), I believe the last Labour Government had no choice but to use them.
If Labour was to build modern public services it could not do so without finding new ways of funding their investment plans.
It had already substantially increased its capital spending on our hospitals, schools and transport links but it would have taken decades of investment to rebuild public buildings after 20 years’ neglect.
People should remember that thousands of schools had holes in their roof and were falling down around the heads of teachers and pupils. Meanwhile, operations were being carried out in old Victorian workhouses like Whiston Hospital while trains were often delayed due to the fact that no investment had been made in them for over 40 years.
Faced with such problems the Labour Government had two choices – the first, that it could carry on with increased public spending over the next 40 years or try to catch up with past years of underinvestment by using PFIs.
It is worth remembering that the last Labour Government rebuilt more than half of our NHS hospitals while in office.
Critics of PFI have to clarify if they would be happy to put up with run-down hospitals or come forward with their own solutions as to how they could have rebuilt our public services without using PFIs.
So why are our own PFI hospitals facing financial crisis? Well, it is clear that the world financial crisis has created major problems for maintaining public spending and around the world governments are cutting spending. However, the decision of the Coalition to break up the NHS means funding for our hospitals is now a problem for St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust not, as in the past, the whole of the NHS.
The Labour Government had agreed a funding package which would take into account the increased mortgage costs for the two new hospital buildings but the present Government is trying to reduce the payments to the trust to the same level of funding as it received before it was rebuilt and is in fact making them a profit on top.
My fear is the ongoing crisis caused by the Government’s refusal to provide a fair funding base will mean that the hospital performance will decline, making it easier for the Government to achieve its real long-term aim of privatisation.
The Government needs to get a grip of this matter and increase funding to the trust to allow the health professionals and managers who are all worthy of praise to get on with the job of providing high quality health services.
Dave Watts, Labour MP for St Helens North