At the 21 October Joint Health Scrutiny Committee meeting, Councillors tried to find out what the NHS competition enforcer, Monitor, actually meant by stating that the hospitals Trust needs to:
“maximise the value of the Calderdale Royal Hospital (CRH) PFI contract”.
As a result of the government trying to force hospitals into making massive “efficiency” cuts, that were impossible to carry out because this would have endangered patient safety, Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust (CHFT) is one of scores of Trusts across the country that are now in deficit and under Monitor’s special measures.
Calderdale Councillor Martin Burton asked how the Trust could maximise the value of the CRH PFI contract. It was like trying to get blood from a stone.
Three questions from Cllr Burton produced the following evasive replies from the Monitor rep:
“The CRH PFI contract is very long – it’s an extraordinarily long 60 year contract. The earliest exit point through payment of a sizable fee is after 30 years, and the money’s not available for that.
We’re interested in making sure that the Trust maximises the value of that fixed cost. As Care Closer to Home takes care out of the hospital, we may be able to reduce the footprint on the Huddersfield Royal Infirmary estate…
The service configuration will be an important consideration in how to maximise value…
A certain volume of activity and number of services have to come from the PFI site. But services fit together in hospitals, for example if you do high risk surgery, you have to have intensive care.”
Defining “hot” services as acute and emergency care, and “cold” services as planned care, the JHSC Chair Cllr Elizabeth Smaje asked:
“Are Monitor looking at which site would be better for hot and cold services in order to maximise the value/ potential of the PFI site?”
The Monitor rep ducked the question by saying:
“Monitor’s not involved in these decisions – it’s the job of CHFT, EY [Ernst & Young] and the CCGs. Monitor will review these decisions. PFI is an important factor.”
Cllr Smaje failed to redirect her question to the hospitals Trust and the CCGs (Clinical Commissioning Groups), so she didn’t get an answer to this crucial question.
With Councillors unable to frame questions and follow ups that would require Monitor and the other NHS organisations to give straight answers – rather than get away with evasive spin – after the meeting Huddersfield Keep Our NHS secretary Paul Cooney said that he felt Councillors on the Scrutiny Committee “need to up their game”.