Loans `destroying' NHS

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The Independent Online
THE NATIONAL Health Service is in danger of shrinking to a "rump service for the poor" as hospitals are forced to mortgage themselves to private companies to pay for new buildings, says the British Medical Journal.

The Government's private finance initiative (PFI) under which NHS trusts are required to raise funds for new buildings from commercial institutions instead of applying to the Treasury "could destroy the NHS", says the editor, Dr Richard Smith, in a leading article.

More patients may be forced to go private and NHS patients may have to pay for treatment, to keep up the mortgage payments over 30 years. To cover the increased costs of borrowing from the private sector, hospitals are having to cut bed numbers "probably to a point where they won't be able to do the job". With large sums of public money at stake and inadequate accountability, there is increased scope for corruption, Dr Smith says.

The PFI was introduced by the Tories. So far, contracts for 12 new hospitals have been signed under the scheme according to a review published today, also in the BMJ.

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