NHS: the REAL cost of privatisation

“The biggest emergencies-only hospital in Europe will take three years longer than expected to build and cost nearly twice its original budget.

The Midland Metropolitan Hospital was intended to treat 170,000 A&E patients a year from this summer but will not open until 2022. It will also cost at least £605 million, despite originally being priced at £350 million.

The problems were highlighted after Theresa May unveiled a ten-year strategy for the health service that included a £20 billion spending boost by 2023. The delay and increased costs were caused by the collapse a year ago of the construction company Carillion, halting building under the private finance initiative. The failure forced the NHS to implement contingency plans in 14 hospitals to maintain essential services delivered by Carillion.

The new 670-bed hospital in Smethwick, West Midlands, is meant to replace large parts of Sandwell Hospital and City Hospital, Birmingham. Carillion was paid £205 million towards the project before the firm’s collapse.

Toby Lewis, chief executive of the Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust, told its board last month that more than £400 million would be spent completing the hospital and keeping emergency services running at the Birmingham hospital.

The trust is paying Balfour Beatty, the construction company, £10 million to “winter-proof” the new hospital, which was left open to the elements. It is poised to seek bids from companies to complete the building, although some have already made clear that they are not interested.

John Spellar, Labour MP for Warley, said that outlay on maintaining existing hospital facilities had been cut in anticipation of the new building and that the delay was affecting recruitment and training. He said that civil servants were to blame for transferring too much risk to the private sector when they had “no concept what it actually means”.

A parliamentary inquiry into the failure of the multinational contractor with liabilities of almost £7 billion found that its “business model was an unsustainable dash for cash. The mystery is not that it collapsed but how it kept going for so long”.

Carillion was also building the Royal Liverpool Hospital, which features in a BBC Two documentary to be broadcast tomorrow. Aidan Kehoe, chief executive of the Royal Liverpool, tells the Hospitalprogramme: “I am very angry at the way Carillion have behaved. To leave us in this position is, I think, just unacceptable. These people are taking huge bonuses that they are not paying back and they are leaving the people waiting years more for a hospital. Serious questions have to be asked about the way Carillion have behaved.”

The £500 million Liverpool hospital building was due to be finished two years ago but is not expected to be completed until next year.

Jayne Halloran, an associate director at the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospital Trust, said that it was expensive to maintain the partially built hospital, where 14 staff work full time turning taps on and off to stop legionella bacteria from growing. “It takes six days to complete that for the whole building,” Ms Halloran said.”

Source: Times, pay wall

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