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PFI hospitals to 'become white elephants', warns healthcare expert

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The boss of a leading healthcare think tank has predicted that many new PFI hospitals are set to become 'white elephants'.

Speaking to Channel 4's Dispatchesprogramme for a special documentary to be aired this evening, Tony Harrison, of the King's Fund, said PFI deals were put together far too quickly.

In a damning assessment, he said many of the resulting hospitals failed to be flexible enough and as such would have to be either closed or cut back.

The King's Fund is an independent think tank and lobby group that 'works for better health' through research, policy analysis and development initiatives.

Harrison told the Channel 4 documentary-makers that there were signs already

that 'one or two' hospitals would 'either close or be drastically reduced in scale'.

'They will become white elephants because it's very difficult to redeploy hospital activity and do other things,' he said.

Contracts had been signed without long-term considerations, he complained. 'There were no studies, no strategy. They just went ahead and built hospitals without regard to the wider context,' he said.

'The Government now wants care shifted from hospital to community, undermining its own investment strategy.

'It doesn't make sense to lock yourself into those contracts when you know you're going to have to shift course during that period,' he added.

Dispatches: Public Service, Private Profitwill be shown at 8pm this evening on Channel 4.

by Ed Dorrell

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