Ipswich: MP hits out over PFI maintenance spending at hospital

Hospital chiefs have been rapped after spending �23,000 on maintenance for a private finance initiative (PFI) building.

Dan Poulter, MP for north Ipswich and central Suffolk, today told of his dismay after figures revealed Ipswich Hospital had spent thousands of pounds on odd jobs for the �26million Garrett Anderson Centre in just three years.

But the hospital defended the spending saying it had a responsibility to keep its premises safe.

The data, revealed by a Freedom of Information request, shows it cost the hospital �120 for engineers to assess a door which had given someone a static shock. After investigating, the maintenance firm said the door was not its responsibility, but the hospital was still forced to shell out for the call-out.

Since 2008 there have been 14 call-outs to replace the glass on a fire alarm costing �1,680.

As part of the PFI-funded deal for the Garrett Anderson Centre the hospital had to sign a contract under which it agreed to pay for maintenance work.

Dr Poulter said: “I think the fact that so much is being spent on these maintenance jobs shows that the management failed to negotiate the PFI deal properly.

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“Everyone is delighted with the Garrett Anderson building, but at the end of the day it is costing a lot of money. Patients are being short-changed because of this. Money which should be being spent on them is being spent on these fees.

“I think when negotiating the PFI deal they should have taken these kinds of things into account because in the long term they are really going to cost us. It is crippling our finances and, at a time when the hospital faces 250 redundancies, this is not a fair deal for the hard-working doctors and nurses.

“The management have shown a clear lack of insight and leadership.”

Under a PFI scheme, a private firm paid for the Garrett Anderson block, with the trust repaying it over a number of years with interest.

The figures also revealed that more than �1,400 had been spent on 12 call-outs which were later deemed false alarms.

A further �360 was spent on calls for issues which were the trust’s responsibility rather than the firm’s, with one such call-out being placed after keys to a drugs cupboard went missing.

“We have a responsibility to make sure that the hospital is safe,” said a spokeswoman for Ipswich Hospital.

“We have up to 8,000 people on the site a day and we accept that if people break the fire guards – because they are anxious or because they are concerned about something – then it will cost.

“We have to safeguard people and we would rather incur costs than put patients at risk.”