Whipps Cross: PFI leads to hospital crisis

Submitted by Matthew on 27 March, 2015 - 12:23 Author: Rosalind Robson

Whipps Cross Hospital in Leytonstone has been rated as inadequate by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), and the whole of Barts NHS Trust which runs the hospital has been placed in special measures. The CQC say patient safety has been seriously compromised.

But the CQC failed to identify the background to the hospital’s difficulties — cuts in staff and the serious financial problems facing Barts NHS Trust, as the result of debts incurred under PFI contracts.

Barts Health NHS Trust has a £1.25 billion yearly turnover and a workforce of 14,000. It is the largest NHS trust in the country. The Trust is now something like £93 million in debt, with annual interest payments on its £1.1 billion PFI contracts. The final bill on these contracts will be £7.1 billion by 2048.

Whipps Cross was taken over by the Trust, because the latter wanted to spread the burden of its PFI debt. This is the result.

The Care Quality Commission also found a culture of bullying at the Hospital, but this has been a consistent complaint made by workers and was demonstrated by the sacking of Unison rep Charlotte Monro in 2013 for disclosing information about redundancies.

200 posts have been axed and the jobs of hundreds of nurses have been downgraded. The hospital is now heavily-reliant on agency staff.

Will the hospital be re-employing staff to meet the gaps in care? It seems not. One of the first steps at Whipps Cross, it has been said, will be to strengthen the leadership team, i.e. take on more high paid managers! That’s in keeping with the crisis management approach of the new “lean” NHS. According to local campaigners Barts spent almost £1 million in 10 months on a “turnaround” management consultant and £935,000 on advice from “Titanium Global Solutions”.

PFI schemes drain the NHS of valuable resources and put them in the pockets of wealthy investors. Labour’s shadow health secretary Andy Burnham has condemned understaffing at Whipps Cross. But would Labour scrap PFI?

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