Seven NHS trusts to get access to £1.5bn bailout fund

Hospital PFIs use private money for building projects

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Seven English NHS hospital trusts with debts caused, in part, by private finance initiative repayments are to have access to a £1.5bn government bailout fund, it has been announced.

The subsidy will be available over the course of 25-year long contracts.

Trusts will have to show they have improved efficiency and provide good care in order to access the money.

But Labour said the move was a "smokescreen" to shift attention from problems with the health bill.

The seven trusts are: Barking, Havering and Redbridge, St Helens and Knowsley, South London, Peterborough and Stamford, North Cumbria, Dartford and Gravesham and Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells.

There are 100-plus PFI schemes, where private firms pay to build hospitals, leaving the NHS to pay an annual fee or "mortgage".

PFI was originally introduced by the Tories under John Major, but the use of the scheme was largely expanded into the NHS by Labour.

Coalition ministers have attacked Labour over its deals, but the National Audit Office recently reported that for most trusts with financial difficulties PFI was just part of the problem.

The Department of Health says without the funding, services at the hospitals would be put at risk.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: "We need to balance the accountability of the NHS at local level to live within its means on one hand, with recognising that there is a legacy of debt for some trusts with PFI schemes."

A Labour spokesperson said: "This announcement from the government is a smokescreen on the day that the Royal College of GPs have come out against their Health Bill, joining the royal colleges of Radiologists, Nursing and Midwives in full opposition to their plans."

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