Papworth Move Halted by PFI Losses at Peterborough and Stamford Trust

Papworth hospital, which is a centre of excellence for heart and lung treatment, is being prevented by the Treasury from moving to a new centre of medical excellence in Cambridge and may instead be forced into a partnership with the NHS’s most loss-making foundation trust at Peterborough.

Peterborough and Stamford NHS Foundation Trust is losing millions of pounds a month and has had to receive £44m in emergency funding from the DH to continue operating. Last year it was declared “not financially sustainable” by the NHS’s economic regulator Monitor.

Papworth was due to relocate to a new £160m, 310-bed hospital in the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, a huge new medical and science park next to the city’s Addenbrooke’s hospital. The complex will ultimately employ 30,000 people and be one of the world’s biggest centres of research and treatment. The two hospitals together would also become a major transplant centre.

A construction firm has already been appointed and amazingly the DH has already approved the project and had arranged £70m in low-interest loans to help Papworth meet the £160m overall cost. The hospital has to borrow the remaining £90m from banks under the private finance initiative (PFI), with that deal needing the Treasury’s approval. Given the issues at Peterborough this seems to be a nonsensical move, when the whole project could be funded through low cost loans.

But in an unexpected intervention, the Treasury has ordered Monitor to undertake two unnecessary reviews, which will take several months to complete, before it will approve any move by Papworth.

There are worries that Papworth could be targeted under DH plans currently going through parliament to give government-appointed special administrators the power to push through changes at profitable trusts situated near hospitals which have hit major financial problems, such as Peterborough.

It is obvious that this cynical, political decision is not being made for clinical reasons or in the best interests of patients and has much more to do with ‘affordability’ and the failures of PFI.

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