Leader: ERI PFI has put profit before patients

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There will be few people who do not know that the taxpayer got a raw deal when the contract was drawn-up to build and run the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

This newspaper has carried story after story highlighting the problems with the Consort deal, which will have cost NHS Lothian a staggering £1.28 billion by the year 2028.

Many of these stories surround legal wrangles which, while costing the taxpayer money, may have little impact on the day-to-day running of the facility.

Today we have new evidence of how the beauracy of the arrangement to run the hospital will impact on both staff and patients.

More beds are desperately needed at Little France – the hospital was never big enough when it was built.

A £4 million plan was put in place to convert redundant office accommodation to create two new wards. This was to be done in time for the busy winter period.

All is well until discussions with the health board’s PFI partner begin in earnest.

They in turn have to discuss the plan with their 11 lenders, inevitably lawyers get involved and the result is a crucial delay and the health board having to agree to what it sees as unreasonable conditions just to get the project moving. The new beds now won’t be available until early next year at the earliest, placing staff under additional pressure.

It shouldn’t be like this and it all adds to the feeling, rightly or wrongly, of profits before patients. If doctors say more beds are needed and funding is in place then there should be nothing to hold up the work.

While NHS Lothian is locked into the contract with Consort, the board will have to make the best of the situation and continue to fight its corner. What is needed now is a recognition from Consort of the severe pressure facing the health board and a bit of give for the lucrative take.