A Nottinghamshire health trust is paying out almost £1 million every week for the building and maintenance of King’s Mill Hospital.
The sum, which equates to £134,534 per day, makes up 14.5 percent of Sherwood Forest Hospitals Trust’s budget and has been described as “shocking” by the leader of Ashfield District Council, Jason Zadrozny.
The trust signed a PFI (private finance initiative) agreement to build and maintain the hospital and to refurbish Newark and Mansfield hospitals in 2005. It was estimated the cost of King’s Mill, in Sutton in Ashfield, would be £300 million.
But a Freedom of Information request has revealed the cost of the payments, expected to continue until 2043, is predicted to reach £2.5 billion.
Mr Zadrozny, who has been a vocal critic of the contract, said: “Before a single patient is cared for or before an underpaid nurse or health professional is paid – our trust is coughing up £1,000,000 a week.
“We are paying dearly for a monumental mistake made by the Labour Party in 2005 – who under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown borrowed on the never-never.
“We are still suffering now. I said in 2015 that our local NHS is drowning in debt – fast forward and the debt is getting seriously out of control.
“Imagine how many nurses and clinicians £1,000,000 a week would buy? Imagine the extra resources we could put into saving lives?”
“The Government has announced it is planning to build 40 new hospitals over the next 10 years. I put it to the Prime Minister that he should be getting to grips with the biggest financial crisis facing our NHS first.
“When I raised this in 2015, hospital bosses said they were speaking to the Government about managing its debt. These latest figures show that instead of things getting better, they are getting far, far worse.
“It is inconceivable that services will not be affected in both Ashfield and Newark.”
The expected cost of the payments reaching £2.5 billion is in part because of the interest linked to the borrowing, but it is also because the the contract involves maintenance and other service costs, including cleaning and food provision.
A spokeswoman for the trust said it now had a first-class facility for patients.
She added: “First and foremost, patients at King’s Mill Hospital have a first class facility to be treated in, which is one of the best estates in the region.
“This has helped contribute to measures that improve patient care such as an increase in single rooms for patients, which improves dignity for patients and reduces the risk of infection.
“The PFI is a finance lease and the purpose of these payments is to pay for the usage, maintenance and future ownership of the buildings.
“The PFI deal funded the new main building at King’s Mill Hospital and refurbishment work on existing buildings at King’s Mill Hospital, Mansfield Community Hospital and Newark Hospital.
“It is important to note that the final cost also includes paying for key services such as cleaning, portering and hospital food over 32 years, that still would have had to be paid if the new hospital had not been built.
“Therefore the initial cost for building the hospital should not be compared to final full cost of the PFI contract.
“Despite these costs, for 2018/19 we have delivered our full cost improvement plan and kept to the control total budget agreed with our regulators, which recognised in full the PFI payments to ensure that this has no impact on the care we provide to our patients.
“The annual repayments contribute to the trust’s financial deficit which is financed by treasury loans with no adverse impact on patient care.”
The cost of the contract has risen £492,105 a month in the last five years, to £4,092,105 per month – to just under £50 million a year.
In comparison, Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust only spent around 1.6 percent of its income on PFI in 2018/19, while Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust spent just 0.3 percent.