Construction of 10 of the 11 NHS hospitals scheduled for development from 1999 onwards, is to be privately funded, according to health minister Alan Milburn.
The NHS hospital building programme will cost almost £1 billion, but the majority of the finance is being sought from the private sector.
This use of the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) to pay for the building forms the second wave of this type of hospital building. The first wave was announced last year in a deal worth E IA billion.
PFI was introduced by the last Government.
Hospital construction is planned for Newcastle, West Berkshire, West Middlesex, Dudley, Walsgrave, Manchester, Gloucester, University College Hospital London, King’s College London, St George’s London and The Royal London.
The Royal London should receive the largest injection of cash, with approximately £250 million set aside for its development.
The schemes will be given intensive Government support with a view to advertising for private sector partners during the coming year.
Milburn said the hospital building programme is a key element in the Government’s 10 year modernisation programme for the health service.
“We are committed to providing the best new facilities for patients, and giving NHS staff the best environment to deliver high quality care,” he added.
The Government’s decision to utilise PFI in its hospital construction programme, combined with the announcement that NHS pay awards are to be staged, brought health minister Alan Milburn under fire from Unison activists, at the healthcare union’s annual conference.
The minister was jeered and heckled as he struggled to deliver his speech – and told protesters to “grow up and listen”.
Unison is opposed to the principle of PFI. Anne Robertson, a delegate from Bury St Edmunds, said: “We are being prostituted to the private sector.”
Milburn tried to calm Unison delegates by announcing that key documents relating to PFI schemes would be made public.
He said contractors would be assessed on their record as employers and that health unions would also be invited to interview the shortlisted companies and to report on their impressions of them as fair employers.