N&N under fire on bill for odd jobs

Norfolk's main hospital has been criticised for the amount it paid contractors to carry out minor maintenance jobs under a private finance deal. A report published by the National Audit Office (NAO) found fault with the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital for forking out £1.

Norfolk's main hospital has been criticised for the amount it paid contractors to carry out minor maintenance jobs under a private finance deal.

A report published by the National Audit Office (NAO) found fault with the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital for forking out £1.2m on 1,600 minor jobs - about £750 each.

The findings also reveal that, under private finance schemes in which firms build and run hospitals in return for annual payments, hospitals have fewer beds and are less well cleaned.

The N&N was built under the controversial Private Finance Initiative (PFI), which saw private companies pay for the construction and the running of the hospital in return for annual payments from the NHS.

But campaigners have always claimed Norfolk was paying £175m too much for its new hospital, compared to what it would have cost if the government had paid for the work in the traditional way.

An analysis of construction and running costs suggests the PFI deal with the Octagon Healthcare consortium of banks, finance houses and construction firms costs the N&N £5m a year more than it should have done over the 35-year term of the contract.

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The hospital is bound by the contract for minor repair work and maintenance it needs carried out.

Norwich North MP Ian Gibson said: "This is an extremely large amount of money and it needs detailed investigation. Isn't patient care more important that the money spent on minor repairs?"

Andrew Stronach, spokesman for the N&N, said: "When minor works are commissioned it is on a whole-life basis. One of the benefits for our patients and staff is although the hospital is relatively new, seven of the wards have been completely refurbished.

"The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital NHS Trust is also the only hospital trust in the region to be have been rated excellent for cleanliness and catering by the national Patient Environment Action Team."