LETTER: Labour and the PFI legacy

IN his letter headed “Wool over eyes” (Letters, March 16th), M.T. Rowan says privateers are the driving force behind this Government’s Health and Social Care Bill.

I would like to ask where he/she was when the Labour Government was handing out multi-billion pound Private Finance Initiative contracts.

In 1992, PFI was implemented for the first time in the UK by the Conservative Government of John Major. The idea was immediately attacked by the Labour Party. The critics included Harriet Harman, who considered that PFIs were really a back door form of privatisation and even the future Chancellor, Alistair Darling, warned that any immediate savings would be wiped out by higher costs in future years (how right he was).

Less than two months after coming to power, Labour had a Damascene conversion when Health Secretary Alan Milburn announced that “when there is a limited amount of public sector capital available, it’s PFI or bust”. When you consider Labour’s vehement opposition to PFIs, many will think they too covered the public’s eyes with wool.

When the NHS was set up in 1948, it cost £437m.. The founding fathers claimed - and please don’t laugh - that the cost would eventually decrease to almost nothing as the nation’s health would improve to such an extent the demands on the service would be absolutely minimal.

Like politicians before and since, the made no allowances for human nature. Offer people something for nothing, and whether they need it or not they will grab it.

Today the NHS budget is in the region of £106 billion and only someone living in another universe will doubt that this figure will continue to escalate. We have already seen a major increase in the population, people are living longer and new drugs, procedures and equipment are being announced every week.

If the NHS is to survive, it must change for it cannot continue in its present state.

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