MP to meet health minister over huge cost of Norfolk and Norwich Hospital’s PFI deal

Norman Lamb MP Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Norman Lamb MP Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire - Credit: PA

A health minister has said he will not raise hopes the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (N&N) Private Finance Initiative (PFI) burden can be eased amid Norfolk MP Norman Lamb's call for a plea for profits to be foregone.

Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat MP for North Norfolk, challenged health minister Philip Dunne about the annual payments the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (NNUH) makes to the Octagon Healthcare consortium under a Private Finance Initiative (PFI).

The NNUH paid around £42m to Octagon last year for the building, lease, and maintenance of its premises on Colney Lane, which opened in 2001.

This year the trust estimates it will pay the private company around £57m. It cannot get out of the deal until 2037 at the earliest - by which time it will have paid hundreds of millions of pounds more than the hospital originally cost to build.

An EDP investigation also revealed Octagon has paid millions of pounds to its shareholders in dividends.

Meanwhile the NNUH has been placed in financial special measures and must make more than £20m savings this year.

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One result of that is the closure of the Henderson Unit, at Julian Hospital, in Norwich, which helps patients who are medically fit for discharge from hospital but not ready to start living independently at home.

Mr Lamb, a former health minister, raised the PFI issue at Health Questions in the House of Commons yesterday.

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He asked Mr Dunne to make a formal approach to Octagon to 'consider foregoing part of its profit to help confront the enormous financial black hole that this trust faces'.

Mr Dunne offered to meet with Mr Lamb to discuss the proposal. He also said the government has a £1.5bn bailout fund to support hospital trusts struggling with debts caused by PFI contracts - though the NNUH is not among the seven trusts with access to this fund.

This is because the NNUH did not need to access the fund when it was set up in 2012.

Mr Lamb said: 'Patient care is being directly affected by this outrageous PFI deal.

'I hope that the government will take swift action to negotiate a sharing of Octagon's profits or a voluntary concession on the payments owed to it, to ease the burden on the hospital and ultimately free up resources so that patients can receive the care and treatment they need.'

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