HC Deb 25 October 1994 vol 248 cc741-2
3. Mr. Ottaway

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what progress has been made in taking forward the private finance initiative in the South Thames region.

The Secretary of State for Health (Mrs. Virginia Bottomley)

Good progress has been made in taking forward the private finance initiative in the South Thames region. Since the initiative was launched in November 1992, seven projects have been approved, each with a capital value of£1 million or over. This is bringing in more than £26 million of private sector capital to the region.

Mr. Ottaway

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Will she confirm that, since the private finance initiative was launched, it has resulted in additional investment nationally of some £100 million and that a further £500 million has been earmarked? Is not that excellent news for patients? How will those latter opportunities be realised?

Mrs. Bottomley

I thank my hon. Friend and can certainly confirm the figures that he gives. The private finance initiative is an excellent opportunity for us to extend patient care further and faster. With the great range of projects, we are giving advice and keeping a data bank so that good practice can be developed. The criteria in every case is that projects should be good value for money and lead to good patient care.

Mr. Nicholas Brown

Has the Secretary of State seen the regional private finance initiative referred to in The Independent today? The Worthing district health authority has accepted a bid from an outfit called Westminster Health. Is the Secretary of State absolutely satisfied that those who run it are suitable people to be in charge of the care of our elderly long-term sick? After all, they have been involved in a substantial fraud case in Texas and have had about 150 separate allegations of abuse pending against them since the 1980s. In any event, was not the NHS trust bid cheaper?

Mrs. Bottomley

First, I welcome the hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett) to their new jobs. I am pleased, from the point of view of private finance, that it was the hon. Gentleman who said: public and private finance working together in transport, in housing, in capital projects, in health and education have a part to play. We thank him for that commitment to the initiative. Clearly, he has no objection to the principle but is querying an individual case. I understand that the original proposal was that the district health authority should take on three projects. That did not satisfy the trust. The trust was, however, satisfied that the individual project concerned would lead to the best value for money and high-quality patient care. Those are always the top criteria.