NHS hospitals crippled by PFI scheme
Patient care is under threat at more than 60 NHS hospitals which are “on the brink of financial collapse” because of costly private finance initiative schemes, the Health Secretary will warn.
Andrew Lansley says he has been contacted by 22 health service trusts which claim their “clinical and financial stability” is being undermined by the costs of the contracts, which the Labour government used extensively to fund public sector projects.
The Daily Telegraph can disclose that the trusts in jeopardy include Barts and the London, Oxford Radcliffe, North Bristol, St Helens and Knowsley, and Portsmouth. Between them the trusts run more than 60 hospitals which care for 12 million patients.
There is already evidence that waiting lists for non–urgent operations have begun to rise as hospitals delay treatment to save money. Adding to this are growing fears over the impact of the financial crisis on care this winter.
Under the PFI deals, a private contractor builds a hospital or school. It owns the building for up to 35 years, and during this period the public sector must pay interest and repay the cost of construction, as well as paying the contractor to maintain the building.
However, the total cost of the deals is often far more than the value of the assets. As a result, Mr Lansley says, the 22 trusts “cannot afford” to pay for their schemes, which in total are worth more than £5.4billion, because the required payments have risen sharply in the wake of the recession.
Mr Lansley told The Daily Telegraph: “Over the last year, we’ve been working to expose the mess Labour left us with, and the truth is that some hospitals have been landed with PFI deals they simply cannot afford.
“Like the economy, Labour has brought some parts of the NHS to the brink of financial collapse. Tough solutions may be needed for these problems, but we’ll help the NHS overcome them. We will not make the sick pay for Labour’s debt crisis.”
Over the next few weeks, Department of Health officials and executives at the 22 trusts will develop detailed plans for dealing with the crisis. Their proposals are expected to include significant cost–cutting and the renegotiation of PFI contracts.
Money will also be moved from NHS trusts that are in better financial shape to cover the debt costs at those that are struggling. However, officials are braced for the need to use Whitehall funds to bail out some hospitals.
Among the trusts which have contacted Mr Lansley to inform him of their severe financial problems are several London institutions, including South London Healthcare, Barking, Havering and Redbridge, and North Middlesex. Outside the capital, other trusts to have approached the health department include Wye Valley, Worcester Acute Hospitals, Mid Yorkshire, and Walsall.
After the general election last year, Mr Lansley ordered officials to establish why some NHS hospitals were under–performing. The health department is assessing the financial position of every hospital. It is understood that the PFI costs have emerged as a leading factor in poor patient care in some areas. The Health Secretary decided to disclose the list of hospitals in difficulty and is expected to announce the rescue plans for each trust next month.
Earlier in the year, The Daily Telegraph disclosed the extremely poor value offered by many PFI schemes. Taxpayers are having to pay more than £200billion for schools, hospitals and other projects whose capital value is little more than £50 billion. In one example, a hospital in Bromley, south east London, will ultimately cost the NHS £1.2billion, more than 10 times what it is worth. Another hospital was charged £52,000 for maintenance that cost £750. The annual cost of the schemes is almost £400 for each household.
The public payments for PFI deals are typically linked to inflation and therefore the cost to taxpayers has increased by up to a third since the beginning of the credit crisis, according to the National Audit Office. Last month, MPs on the Treasury select committee effectively called for a moratorium on new PFI projects, which it said were “like a drug” as the costs were not apparent at the outset. George Osborne, the Chancellor, has tightened the rules on the deals.
Earlier this year, John Healey, the shadow health secretary, admitted in an interview that Labour ministers had failed when negotiating the multi–million pound schemes for hospitals. “There is definitely a case for saying we were poor at PFI, poor at negotiating PFI contracts at the outset,” he said.
Companies who run PFI schemes boast profit margins of up to 71 per cent on the projects, but have come under growing pressure from MPs and ministers to return some of their “windfall profits”.
Cash-strapped NHS hospital paid chief £3,163 a day for 141 days’ work
The NHS paid a hospital chief executive £3,163 a day – nearly twice as much as a nurse takes home in a month, figures reveal. Derek Smith received £387,220 for the 141 days he worked on a temporary basis as boss of the cash-strapped Dorset County Hospital.
Mr Smith’s massive daily rate hit the headlines in July last year after hospital accounts showed he was paid £248,041 for 97 days’ work – or £2,557 a day – during the 2009/10 financial year. But the final tally shows the NHS stumped up a further £139,179 for the remaining 44 days he worked at the hospital in Dorchester. That is the equivalent of £3,163 a day – £606 a day more than his previous rate. The accounts for 2010/2011 show that in addition he was paid £10,793 in expenses.
The hospital was £5.1million in the red when Mr Smith was hired and has since reduced staffing levels through natural wastage to cut costs. Most nurses earn around £1,800 a month after tax.
The figures also show that an interim director of finance hired by the same hospital was paid £280,621 for 201 days work, or £1,396 a day, in 2010/2011.
Simon Newell, a spokesman for Unison, the UK’s largest union, said: ‘Staff at the hospital will be shocked to learn of this continuing saga. It is absolutely outrageous. ‘The idea that you pay a manager £139,000 for just 44 days’ work – and that’s excluding expenses – when the hospital is desperate to save money is ludicrous. ‘This has gone up from what was calculated less than a year ago at £2,557 a day. That’s nearly a 25 per cent increase.
‘To then claim his expenses as well Mr Smith is adding insult to injury. Most nurses earn around £1,800 a month after tax and to see someone earning hundreds of pounds more than that for just one day will be galling. ‘I can’t see how anyone can justify this use of taxpayers’ money.’ Mr Newell calculated that Mr Smith’s rate of pay meant he was worth more than 73 full-time hospital cleaners or 40 staff nurses.
At least 1,600 NHS chief executives and managers are paid more than the Prime Minister – with average pay at £158,800 beating David Cameron’s annual salary of £142,500, according to figures released by Income Data Services earlier this year. Average salaries for chief executives have risen by 5 per cent in the last year – nearly twice the rise given to nurses.
Mr Smith, 62, who came with 30 years NHS experience, joined the hospital in September 2009 and left in July last year. He was ‘provided’ for the role by Durrow Ltd – a health management consultancy where he is described as interim chief executive. A spokesman said he did not wish to comment.
The most recent accounts show the hospital trust has reduced its £5.1million deficit to £3.3million. Mr Smith was in post for the first three months of the period when the deficit began to shrink.
Jeffrey Ellwood, chairman of the NHS trust, said: ‘We now have a strong permanent executive team in place and they, along with the hard work of all staff, are getting the hospital back on a firm footing. We are now planning for a £700,000 surplus in the current year.’
The final death-blow for a vast British boondoggle
The idea of computerizing all data on people gives Leftists erections. It represent CONTROL over people for them. The fact that most large computer projects fail does not deter them
Ministers are to axe Labour’s disastrous £12billion NHS computer scheme. The Coalition will today announce it is putting a halt to years of scandalous waste of taxpayers’ money on a system that never worked. It will cut its losses and ‘urgently’ dismantle the National Programme for IT – a monument to Whitehall folly during Labour’s 13 years in power.
The biggest civilian IT project of its kind in the world, it has already squandered at least £12.7billion. Some estimates put the cost far higher. Analysts say the sum would have paid the salaries of more than 60,000 nurses for a decade.
The announcement follows strong criticism from MPs who accused Labour of wasting a further £500million of taxpayers’ money on a failed bid to set up a network of regional Fire Brigade control centres. And it comes as Chancellor George Osborne was warned he faces a £12billion black hole in his deficit reduction plan – the same amount as that lost to the NHS scheme.
Following an official review, the ‘one size fits all’ IT project will be replaced by much cheaper regional initiatives, with hospitals and GPs choosing the IT system they need. And a new national watchdog will be established to ensure such huge sums can never again be thrown away on uncosted projects.
Labour’s National Programme for IT included a range of schemes to modernise the Health Service, including a national email system and the ability to transfer X-rays and prescriptions electronically.
It also included the ‘electronic care record’, a process allowing hospitals and surgeries to share patients’ medical information, but which was criticised by the British Medical Association for putting privacy at risk.
The decision to accelerate the dismantling of the scheme has been made by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley and Francis Maude, the Minister for the Cabinet Office. It follows new advice produced by the Major Projects Authority, set up by the Coalition to review Labour’s big financial commitments to see if they provide value for money.
The authority said the IT scheme, set up in 2002, is not fit to provide services to the NHS – which as part of austerity measures has to make savings of £20billion by 2014/15. It concluded: ‘There can be no confidence that the programme has delivered or can be delivered as originally conceived.’
British bureaucracy gone mad
‘A monumental waste of money’: Judge’s verdict on council who took firm to court for giving away a CARDBOARD BOX (and it cost taxpayer £15k)
When company boss Linda Bracey gave away spare cardboard boxes to a passer-by, it didn’t seem like a situation to warrant the attentions of a court. But her local council took a different view, prosecuting her in a case branded by a judge as a ‘monumental waste of public time and money’.
The authority ran up legal bills of £15,000 after accusing Mrs Bracey of ‘illegally disposing of business waste’ when she handed over the boxes following a request from a member of the public.
It brought the action after one of the boxes, bearing the company’s name, was found among other rubbish on a fly-tipping site.
Mrs Bracey, 54, said that if successful, the prosecution would have seen supermarkets and other businesses effectively banned from giving away spare boxes to customers who might want to carry their shopping or use them for packing when moving house.
But, following a trial during which Judge Alex Milne QC called for an outbreak of ‘common sense’, a jury at Snaresbrook Crown Court acquitted her company, Electro Signs, in Walthamstow, East London, of breaching environmental protection laws. Giving directions to the jury, Judge Milne said: ‘Were the cardboard boxes in question waste? ‘Packaging such as boxes received by a company like Electro Signs is not waste when it is delivered to the company. Nor do boxes become waste as soon as the contents are removed.
‘If a company chooses to keep and re-use boxes, they remain the property of the company and an asset. If the company keeps boxes for its own use but then chooses to give or sell boxes to another party that is not discarding them.’
Following the hearing Mrs Bracey, a mother of three, labelled as ‘mad’ Waltham Forest Council’s decision to spend £15,000 on a court case over a cardboard box. ‘It is a ridiculous situation, because not only are the council, as the judge said, wasting taxpayers’ money, but also preventing the re-using of a cardboard box, since the company that gives a person a box could be facing prosecution. The world’s gone mad. ‘The ironic thing is that the council brought the action against us under the Environmental Protection Act.
‘The council had ample opportunity over many, many court hearings to stop this. It didn’t have to go this far.’
Faisal Saifee, Mrs Bracey’s barrister, added that the prosecution did not allege the fly-tipping, in October last year, was carried out by the company, which makes neon signs, or any of its employees.
Waltham Forest councillor Clyde Loakes described the outcome of the case as ‘incredibly disappointing’. Mr Loakes added: ‘Our residents are fed up with people treating our streets as a rubbish dump, which is why this council has carried out a well-publicised drive to wipe out environmental crime.’
Global warming and the twisting of British children’s minds
The Times Atlas Of The World, regularly updated since the Victorian age, proudly presents itself as ‘the most authoritative atlas in the world’. But its latest hefty edition, published at the eye-watering price of £150, has become the focus of a bizarre climate change row.
The new atlas shows the ice in Greenland — the northern hemisphere’s largest ice cap — to be melting so fast that, since 1999, nearly a sixth of it has vanished. An area the size of Britain and Ireland combined, once covered in ice and snow, has now become ‘green and ice free’.
The U.S. climate-change sceptic science blog Watts Up With That pointed out that one reason why satellite images might have shown such a huge ice-loss was that a lot of Greenland’s coastal ice sheet has been blackened by soot and volcanic ash, so that it no longer shows up white on photographs from space.
Richard Betts, head of Climate Impact at the UK Met Office — who actually wrote the part of the Times Atlas text which covers climate change — then insisted on another blog that he had not been responsible for ‘any of that Greenland rubbish’.
Britain’s leading polar ice experts at the Scott Polar Research Institute said recent satellite images of Greenland made clear that there are numerous glaciers and permanent ice cover where the Times Atlas shows ice-free conditions and the emergence of land. ‘There is to our knowledge no support for this claim in the published scientific literature,’ they said.
So one of the world’s most respected reference books, it seems, has been caught out perpetrating what amounts to yet more propaganda for the belief in global warming.
One of the most disturbing features of this is that copies of the new atlas may soon be found in school libraries, where it will be cited by teachers as yet more evidence that climate change is now dramatically changing the world we live in.
With active encouragement from the Government, whole generations of school-children have now had the apocalyptic threat of climate change pushed down their throats — not just in science classes, but in almost any subject you can think of (questions on the need to fight global warming have even cropped up in English GCSE papers).
In geography, the present curriculum no longer concentrates on countries, continents, rivers, mountains or cities. Instead, it insists that pupils should learn about global warming and climate change and the likely effects of rising sea levels.
The propaganda is all-encompassing. The Climate Change Schools Project, an outfit that exists in partnership with the Environment Agency and other government-funded bodies, promises on its website ‘to put global warming at the heart of the national curriculum …… We want schools to become the “hub” of excellence in climate change teaching, learning and positive action in their local communities.’
When David Miliband was Labour’s education minister, he ordered that copies of Al Gore’s propaganda film An Inconvenient Truth should be sent to every school in the country. A High Court judge decided that the ‘apocalyptic vision’ of global warming presented in the film was politically partisan and not an impartial analysis of the science of climate change. Mr Justice Barton ruled that the film contained nine errors so serious that the schools must be issued with corrections.
The Government’s response was to compile a 77-page document so long that scarcely a single school in the country used it and no pupil was any the wiser.
And now the new Times Atlas can be added to the approved propaganda list, to ensure that once again school students are being fed with the right-on, politically correct message — even though in this case it has been so damningly challenged by real scientific experts.
In a wider perspective, this embarrassing blunder by a commercial publishing house might not seem anything like so significant as all those grievous errors identified last year in the latest report of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the body that once prided itself as being the most prestigious source of authority on global warming in the world.
Few predictions of the IPCC’s 2007 report drew more attention, for instance, than its claims that, thanks to global warming, most of the Himalayan glaciers would have disappeared within 30 years; 40 per cent of the Amazon rainforest would similarly have vanished; while Africa could expect mass-famine as its crop yields were halved.
All these claims were eventually revealed as not to have been based on science at all. Like many others in that IPCC report, they were no more than reckless scare stories, dreamed up by environmental activists and pressure groups.
But the fact that responsible scientists who are by no means climate sceptics should have been so anxious to point out the errors in the Times Atlas is perhaps an indication that some of the lessons of those blunders by the IPCC have struck home.
The more responsible members of the ‘warmist’ scientific community seem now rather more on their guard than they were against the peddling of baseless scare stories to promote the case for global warming.
When so much now hangs on whether or not there is genuinely reliable evidence for man-made climate change, it is more vital than ever that the claims made to support that change are grounded in proper science.
The Climate Change Act passed by the Labour government in 2008 threatens to become the most expensive piece of legislation in history as we try to reduce our carbon emissions by 80 per cent, building all-but-useless windmills and trying to find carbon-free energy sources at an unimaginable cost of £18bn every year for the next 50 years.
Our politicians still believe this is the best way to fight the warming threat. But too much evidence has come to light in recent years to suggest that much of their belief in global warming may be little more than a vastly over-blown scare.
If there is cheer to be derived from this story of the Times Atlas error, it might be that the people quickest to knock it on the head were scientists who still believe in proper scientific evidence before trying to scare the world witless. We’re going to need much more of that if the world — and our schoolchildren — are going to be returned to sanity on the matter of climate change.
Exposed: The health drinks that don’t live up to the hype
Comment from Britain
Claims that health drinks help slimming, boost digestion and lubricate joints have been rejected by consumer experts.
Britons spend more than £700million a year on ‘functional’ drinks and food. But research by Which?, published today, suggests that using these products to treat ailments is often a waste of money.
The consumer group said the slimming drink Aspire claims ‘you can burn over 200 calories a can’. The firm’s website boasts that Aspire, which contains several stimulants, ‘raises your body’s metabolism and suppresses appetite’.
Which? tracked down research which found that those who drank it did indeed burn off an average of 209 calories over a three-hour period. But this was only 27 calories more than someone who had consumed a drink making no calorie-burning claims. Twenty-seven calories is the equivalent of one bite of a chocolate digestive biscuit. Aspire costs £1.69 for 250ml.
The consumer group was also critical of NeuroTrim, a drink which promises weight loss support. Ingredients include a fibre gel the company calls LuraLean. In August, the Advertising Standards Authority ruled that a website claim that the drink was ‘designed to promote weight loss’ was misleading.
The orange cordial ActivJuice for Joints, which costs £7.39 for 500ml, contains glucosamine. It claims this will ‘help maintain healthy joints, bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments’. But Which? pointed to a finding by the European Food Safety Authority, which has decided there is ‘not enough evidence’ to back up such claims.
A host of probiotic yoghurt drinks, such as Actimel and Yakult, have in the past made claims that they can help boost digestion and the beneficial bacteria that exist in the gut. But Which? said the EFSA has rejected general claims linking prebiotics and probiotics to improved digestive health. The brands have submitted new evidence to justify their claims, but have had to change their marketing claims in the meantime.
Which? said that some health drinks do offer genuine benefits, particularly those designed to reduce cholesterol levels.
British Internet troll jailed for posting abuse about dead teenagers
“An internet troll who targeted the grieving families of dead teenagers has been jailed.
Sean Duffy, 25, targeted Facebook tribute pages and posted videos on YouTube taunting the dead and their families. One of his targets was Natasha MacBryde, 15, who threw herself under a train after suffering bullying.
Duffy, who is unemployed and did not know any of his victims, posted an anonymous video on YouTube called Tasha the Tank Engine, which her family said left them feeling “shocked, outraged and physically sick”.
He pleaded guilty to two counts of sending malicious communications relating to Natasha. He asked for three other cases of Facebook trolling to be taken into consideration when he appeared before magistrates in Reading, southern England.
Jailing Duffy for 18 weeks, the maximum possible sentence, the chair of the bench, Paul Warren, said: “You have caused untold distress to already grieving friends and family. “The offences are so serious only a custodial sentence could be justified.”
Duffy was banned from social-networking sites for five years. He will also have to inform police of any phone he has or buys that comes with internet access.
He might have gotten away with it in America on free speech grounds but maybe not: It comes very close to libel.