Ipswich: Government could bail out debt-ridden hospital

The Government could be forced to step in and save ailing Ipswich Hospital from financial meltdown, The Evening Star can reveal today.

Scores of jobs are under threat after the hospital admitted its debts had spiralled out of control to �11.6m over the summer.

Suffolk MP Dan Poulter revealed he spoke to health minister Simon Burns yesterday and discussed the possibility of Whitehall bailing the hospital out.

He said: “Ipswich has got itself into a terrible mess and whatever the rights and wrongs we now have a problem that needs addressing.

“They have got to face up to the problems – if they don’t we can’t mount an effective case to the Department of Health.”

Dr Poulter, a consultant gynaecologist, said a key reason for the hospital’s plight was its �36million Garrett Anderson Centre, which was funded by a private finance initiative (PFI) scheme.

Figures uncovered by the North Ipswich and Central Suffolk MP reveal it has saddled the trust with a �45m debt that will not be paid off until 2036.

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But Ipswich Hospital said its annual �3m PFI repayments were just one per cent of its budget and nothing to do with it current financial challenges.

It also said it had not heard from the Department of Health about the Government stepping in to save the hospital.

“The facts speak for themselves,” said Dr Poulter.

“Ipswich Hospital has a massive PFI debt of �45m.”

Dr Poulter’s comments came as Health Secretary Andrew Lansley revealed 60 hospitals had been left on the “brink of financial collapse” by PFI schemes.

Mr Lansley said he has been contacted by 22 NHS trusts – Ipswich Hospital was not one of them – which claim their “clinical and financial stability” is at risk because of the spiralling cost of PFI contracts.

Tim Roberts, Unison regional organiser for Suffolk said: “With PFI the trust and the taxpayer pay more for the facility than if they had funded it themselves. We have seen massive waste across the country with contractors charging massive amounts of money for tiny alterations.

“Unfortunately the problems caused by PFI will not only be impacting on the people of Suffolk now but on their children and grandchildren.”

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer, who interrupted a holiday in America to comment on the hospital’s plight, said: “I am extremely concerned about the financial situation at the hospital.

“That is why I arranged a high-level ministerial meeting in Whitehall last week to discuss how the hospital can overcome its historic debts.

“Further to that, I and my colleagues will be seeking an urgent meeting with Andrew Reed so that we can represent our constituents’ concerns.

“Most importantly, we will want to be assured that no front line services will be threatened. And together, we will put pressure on the Government to do all it can to relieve the hospital of the millstone of debt that it has carried for so many years.”