PFI time-bomb explodes under NHS…..
Channel 4 has this story which, hopefully from a Labour Party perspective will have slipped under most peoples radar. It says that despite the rise in overall expenditure on the NHS; capital expenditure (ie, on new hospitals and equipment) is facing ‘savage cuts’ of around 22% in real terms. Tellingly, this is;
in part because contribution from private finance is expected to almost halve from just over £1 billion to just £580m.
Coupled with a cut in public expenditure of £900 million this equals a 21.9% cut. Firstly, this can be said to show the absolute ideological and economic folly of making public facilities dependent on private finance. When the economic weather is foul (which it is) where did the originators of the scheme imagine private sector priorities would lie? Would it be in the maintence of the public good or trimming back to profits? To ask the question is to answer it.
Introducing a ‘mixed-economy’ in things like health service provision is a ticking time-bomb which has just exploded under the NHS. In the long run rather than cut the burden to the public purse it is also likely to increase it as private companies leach the public purse. They are a Conservative invention that Labour should have ended long ago. Now the consequences of the failure to end it will be felt by patients because as Alan Johnson told NHS managers last year there is no ‘plan b’.
Plan B could be to invest public money in place of private and therefore provide jobs and direct economic stimulus through public sector investment in the provision of a vital service however Alistair Darling seems to not just want to do that but add to the cuts with ones of his own. In terms of demonstrating the need to return to some ‘core’ values could there be a clearer example of how desperately that is needed?