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LIFT health schemes come under fire

A new research document has attacked the government's high-profile healthcare procurement system, LIFT.

A report produced for public sector trade union Unison has claimed that new GPs' surgeries and clinics produced under the system will be 'bad deal for the NHS, patients and the taxpayer'.

Last week's White Paper on primary health and care services committed the government to a massive investment in new surgeries, clinics and community hospitals, many of which will be funded through the £1 billion LIFT initiative.

But in its new report, produced today, Unison said that premises constructed through LIFT cost the NHS far more than those funded by conventional public-sector borrowing.

And it warned that the LIFT scheme puts extra layers of bureaucracy between managers, staff and patients and ties the NHS into inflexible long-term contracts.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis called on Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt to think again about the scheme, which allows Primary Care Trusts to seek long-term private-sector partners to deliver investment and services.

'The government needs to step back and properly evaluate LIFT, rather than recklessly handing over hundreds of millions of pounds of NHS money to monopoly providers for expensive and inflexible schemes,' he said.

But the Department of Health insisted that LIFT was 'transforming primary care' and delivering 'a good deal for GPs'.

by Ed Dorrell

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