LETTER:Private finance and the NHS: profits before patients or value for money?

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The Independent Online
From Mr Tom Sackville

Sir: You are in danger of misleading your readers that construction companies will provide clinical services for our hospitals.

The NHS is not being "privatised". Hospitals have always been built by the private sector. The new guidance on the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) was published on Monday and has been sent to all NHS bodies. A press release went to all newspapers. This can hardly be described as the Government "quietly changing the rules".

The rules are the same as they were when the PFI was launched in 1992 - to get value for money for the NHS and to transfer risks to the private sector where appropriate. The rules have always been about running services related to buildings - this is not new.

The PFI does not oblige the NHS to contract out any clinical services. The logic of the PFI is that those services which are directly building- related must be included with the design, building and financing of the capital infrastructure.

We owe it to patients and taxpayers to improve value for money wherever we can. Since competitive tendering of services such as laundry, cleaning and catering began in 1983, accumulated savings approaching £lbn have been ploughed back into the NHS. The PFI aims to increase these savings and further benefit patients.

Yours sincerely,

TOM SACKVILLE

Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State

Department of Health

London, SW1

23 March

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