I am a big supporter of the NHS. I am very proud that the Lib Dem pledge not to cut NHS funding made it into the coalition agreement. I am also proud that the Government have given £150million to support the Christie and Cancer research in the constituency.
When the last Government closed our A and E department at Withington, local people had to go either to Manchester Royal Infirmary or Wythenshawe Hospital.
Last week, the Manchester Evening News rightly highlighted some of the delays at Wythenshawe A and E since NHS Greater Manchester downgraded Trafford A and E. A similar spike occurred at both MRI and Wythenshawe when Withington Hospital was downgraded.
Over the summer, I helped lobby successfully to get a £12million grant to improve A and E at Wythenshawe, but there are obvious short term problems that need to be addressed.
The NHS regulator Monitor recognised these short term pressures, but also issued a long term warning about the financial viability of Wythenshawe Hospital. That was because of the PFI scheme signed off by the last Labour government.
According to official figures in 2010, the value of the PFI was £83million, with the costs of servicing the loan at about £29million per year. A guaranteed return to the private sector providers of 8.5% per year. Overall, the trust will be repaying 16 times what the buildings cost over the lifetime of the loan.
Nationally, the NHS is paying £63billion over the lifetime of PFI hospital contracts which would have cost £11bn. That’s £52billion of NHS money going to the private sector.
I don’t blame the hospital, or local patients, or even the Council, for wanting new facilities, particularly as at that it was the only way to get them at the time.
I blame those who now call for no private sector involvement in the NHS, but at the time were happy to let £29million of NHS resources per year to go straight into the hands of shareholders.