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Notts hospital’s PFI debt just grew to £2bn

Bosses at King’s Mill Hospital has been slammed for ‘failing to renegotiate’ its crippling PFI contract as our investigation finds the bill is continuing to rise.

The area’s main medical centre has come under fire for the impact of the debt paid to its builders over a 38-year period, and a doctor at the hospital says the stifling financial arrangement continues to put lives at risk.

Hospital bosses signed a deal with Swedish construction firm Skanska in 2005, taking on huge debt as part of the private finance initiative, to re-build a £308-million hospital.

The total contract was originally quoted for just over £900m including service agreements, but is now expected to total £2 billion by the end of the contract in 2043.

Now bosses at NHS trust, Sherwood Forest Hospitals, say they have managed to make huge savings on the total cost of the PFI management fees, shaving off £100 million compared to the 2012 estimate.

But a freedom of information request revealed the astonishing charges have continued to rise, as £43m was sank into its private partner for ‘ongoing maintenance, life-cycle replacements and facilities services’, as well as debt repayment and interest.

So far the hospital has forked out £213.6m for the services, which has another 27 years until it expires. Dr Chris Episkopos, a junior doctor at the hospital, said the pressure finances impacted on medical staff.

He said: “PFIs aim to save money in the short-term on refurbishment costs essentially by taking on unsustainable mortgages, that are causing a huge financial drain on the trust because of short-sighted government policies.”

County councillor for Sutton North, Jason Zadrozny, said the arrangement continued to stifle services at the hospital.

He said: “Failure to renegotiate the management side of the contract has meant they haven’t got money to spend. “It’s ludicrous for us to have a state-of -the-art building with wards empty – mothballed because they can’t staff them and provide those services.

“The junior doctors and nursing staff are stretched, and they want to do a good job but they’re under immense pressure, so it does put things at risk.

“We’ve got one of the best hospital buildings in the country and my Ashfield residents are left getting a bus to Nottingham City Hospital or Queen’s.” Issues at the hospital led to a damning reports by the CQC last October, which said mortality rates were excessively high and patients were ‘at high risk of avoidable harm’.

Central Nottingham Hospitals PLC, Skanska’s arm for controlling the hospital, recorded a turnover of £34.3 million and £13 million in interest last year. Development is ongoing in a bid to merge the Sherwood Forest Hospitals trust with Nottingham University Hospitals, which runs Queen’s Medical Centre.

Peter Homa, chief executive of SFH and NUH, said: “The aim of the proposed merger of NUH and SFH is to provide patients across Nottinghamshire with universally and consistently high quality care.

Both trusts have significant financial challenges.

“We have plans to make efficiency savings of £41m in 16/17 and are forecasting a year-end deficit of £55m. “The merger will bring new opportunities for efficiencies.”

The additional costs associated with SFH’s Private Finance Initiative (PFI) will be subject to national support.”

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