Milburn dismisses PFI critics

16 Nov 00
Health Secretary Alan Milburn this week promised a significant expansion of the Private Finance Initiative and fired a broadside at those who have attacked the investment scheme.

17 November 2000

Milburn urged hospitals to link up with other local care providers to improve facilities in all parts of the NHS. PFI should be extended 'beyond the hospital gates' to include GP surgeries, community pharmacies, health centres and intermediate and long-term care facilities.

He said: 'In the next tranche of major PFI deals I want to see not just an individual new hospital here and there, but improvements in the whole local health community. I am confident that through a new programme of public-private partnerships we can see a major renewal of the whole of our health service infrastructure.'

Milburn also gave the green light to 16 large hospital developments worth £350m. And he invited bids for at least 18 more, worth £2.3bn over the next two years.

The total value of the government's current hospital building programme is £3.9bn.

Milburn met the critics of PFI head on. He said: 'The challenge for the critics is this: do they want new NHS facilities or not? If they do, are they prepared to will the means as well as the ends? It seems to me there are far too many people more interested in the systems of NHS procurement than in services for NHS patients.'

He promised the new schemes would add extra beds to local health services, in an attempt to silence critics who have argued that PFI reduces bed numbers. He said that the increase is in line with the conclusions of the National Beds Inquiry and the NHS Plan, which pledged an extra 7,000 beds by 2004.

Milburn added that four of the 16 new projects were urgently needed buildings. These included a new unit at Birmingham City Hospital to speed up diagnosis and treatment for people who need their non-emergency operations quickly. The remaining 12 would concentrate services on single sites and expand facilities.


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