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COMMENT: elephant in the hospital

King’s College Hospital needs to find £86million of savings to stay in the black this financial year.

That is a staggering amount for any organisation to find in ‘efficiency savings’, let alone a service already stretched to its limits by an ageing population.

The hardworking, dedicated staff at King’s must have been pulling their hair out when they got the memo asking how they could help find an extra £2million down the back of the waiting room sofa. “Do you really need to fill a vacancy in your team?” reads the document, which confirms the hospital has already identified £50million in savings through cutting back on agency staff and renegotiating contracts and now just needs to find another £36million.

MP Helen Hayes quite rightly calls for the government to intervene as she says the Trust was not given nearly enough in the settlement it received when it took over the Princess Royal Hospital sites in Bromley and Orpington from the failing South London Healthcare Trust in 2013.

But neither she nor the Trust should remain silent on the elephant in the room – the crippling PFI debt taken on with the Princess Royal. The PFI annual costs were the main driver of the SLHT debts, according to the Secretary of State and a University of London report in 2013 said a large PFI scheme at the Princess Royal was linked to inflation – which means the debt goes up each year from £6million in 2000 to a forecasted £94million in 2031, when the contract comes to a close.

The former Dulwich and West Norwood MP, Tessa Jowell, banged the PFI drum when it came to funding the expansion of Dulwich Hospital, so we will see if Ms Hayes is going to tow the same Blairite line or if she will denounce these private finance schemes for what they are – a virus killing our health service from the inside.

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