NHS boards pay £16.5m for pri­vate se­cu­rity un­der PFI

● Con­ser­va­tives say fig­ures re­veal SNP ‘hypocrisy’ over use of pri­vate firms

The Scotsman - - Front Page - By CHRIS MAR­SHALL Home Af­fairs Cor­re­spon­dent

Cash-strapped NHS boards are spend­ing mil­lions of pounds on pri­vate se­cu­rity firms as part of con­tro­ver­sial PFI con­tracts, it has emerged.

Newly-re­leased fig­ures show that more than £16.5 mil­lion has been spent in the past five years, with much of the money al­lo­cated un­der pri­vate fi­nance agree­ments. While the fig­ure has grown in each of the past five years and stood at nearly £4m in 201718, only five NHS boards have made pay­ments. The big­gest spender was NHS Loth­ian, which has paid out nearly £7m since 2013-14.

The fig­ures were ob­tained by the Scot­tish Con­ser­va­tives us­ing free­dom of in­for­ma­tion leg­is­la­tion. The party said the spend­ing re­vealed the “hypocrisy” of the SNP gov­ern­ment on the is­sue of pri­vati­sa­tion in the health ser­vice.

But the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment said the ma­jor­ity of hos­pi­tal se­cu­rity con­tin­ued to be pro­vided by NHS staff on NHS rates of pay.

Ac­cord­ing to the fig­ures, NHS Greater Glas­gow and Clyde, High­land, La­nark­shire, Loth­ian and Tay­side have all spent money on pri­vate se­cu­rity. NHS Loth­ian’s bill in­cludes money paid to PFI part­ner Con­sort,

as well as se­cu­rity firms G4S and Pro­file.

NHS La­nark­shire recorded the sec­ond high­est spend, at £5.19m since 2013-14, due to PFI ar­range­ments at Hairmyres and Wishaw hos­pi­tals.

In Greater Glas­gow and Clyde, health bosses at­trib­uted an in­creas­ing spend on the fact many build­ings had closed down for the trans­fer to the new Queen El­iz­a­beth cam­pus, mean­ing dis­used sites re­quired round-the-clock pro­tec­tion. And they said that other out-of-hours GP ser­vices needed “an on­go­ing se­cu­rity pres­ence”.

But other large health boards re­sisted us­ing pri­vate firms, with bosses in Aberdeen stat­ing: “All se­cu­rity staff used by NHS Grampian are em­ployed by NHS Grampian.”

Scot­tish Con­ser­va­tive chief whip Mau­rice Golden said: “The SNP never stops talk­ing about how it de­spises the use of pri­vate com­pa­nies when it comes to our NHS. Yet here we see, un­der its watch, spi­ralling costs when it comes to pri­vate se­cu­rity firms.

“From the party that warned a No vote in 2014 would lead to the col­lapse of the NHS in Scot­land be­cause of pri­vati­sa­tion, this is quite the hypocrisy.

“It’s an­other ex­am­ple of the SNP say­ing one thing to please its sup­port­ers, but do­ing quite an­other in gov­ern­ment.”

He went on to say the pri­vate firms were pro­vid­ing a valu­able ser­vice by keep­ing pa­tients and staff safe.

But he added: “It’s clear from this re­search that some ma­jor health boards don’t need to use pri­vate firms, which shows this is a choice rather than a ne­ces­sity.”

Deals signed un­der PFI are ex­pected to cost the UK tax­payer hun­dreds of bil­lions of pounds over the next 20 years.

In Scot­land, the most con­tro­ver­sial projects in­clude the bill for the pri­vately built Ed­in­burgh Royal In­fir­mary, which is ex­pected to be over £1.5 bil­lion by the end of the PFI con­tract in the 2030s.

A Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment spokesman said: “Any vi­o­lence or ag­gres­sion against NHS Scot­land staff is un­ac­cept­able and we have poli­cies in place to pro­vide and con­tin­u­ously im­prove a safe work­ing en­vi­ron­ment.

“We en­cour­age all health boards to com­mit to supporting ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tion against any­one who as­saults a staff mem­ber, in­clud­ing crim­i­nal pro­ceed­ings where ap­pro­pri­ate.

“The ma­jor­ity of NHS ser­vices are pro­vided by per­ma­nent NHS staff work­ing on NHS con­tracts at NHS rates of pay.”

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