Guy's pounds 115m over budget

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The Independent Online
HEALTH MANAGERS were rebuked by MPs yesterday for allowing a delay-dogged building project at Guy's Hospital in central London to soar pounds 115m over budget.

Thomas Guy House had been forecast to be built by 1995 at a cost of pounds 35m but was completed three years late, at a final cost of pounds 150m.

The Commons Public Accounts Select Committee said the project cost taxpayers pounds 98m more than planned. It described its management as "very poor" and "reckless".

In 1986, the Government agreed to contribute pounds 19m towards a joint public- private sector plan to build state-of-the-art facilities for 40 clinical departments at the hospital.

However, taxpayers' share of the costs eventually rose from 55 per cent to 78 per cent.

In a fiercely critical report, the MPs said: "We are appalled that a project of this magnitude could have spiralled out of control without effective management for nine years.

"It is a disgrace that the original estimate was so inadequate, and was approved by both the Department of Health and the Treasury quickly, even though both had strong reservations about it."

The organisation responsible for the building work changed four times and the project manager changed five times, the report acknowledged. The select committee said the failure to manage the project properly was, nevertheless, "indefensible". The design for the project was only finalised five years after the initial estimate had been approved, resulting in "significant extra costs".

Project managers also proceeded at various stages without full funding for the scheme. "This was reckless," the select committee said.

The NHS conceded it only experienced a "sense of realism" in controlling the costs of the development in 1994, when costs had risen to pounds 147m.

The MPs complained that the "unrealistic" original price tag may have allowed Guy's to jump the queue for NHS resources, with a "considerable adverse impact" on the rest of the health service. The pounds 98m extra cost was equivalent to a shortfall of pounds 58,000 for every NHS trust in the country.

The chairman of the select committee, David Davis, said: "I am concerned that no one associated with the failures of cost control or project management has been identified or disciplined."