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Health PFI checks left undone

NEWS - NHS trusts have undertaken only two of more than 20 best value assessments due on PFI schemes, says Department of Health

BLUNDERING health officials have admitted to carrying out just two compulsory best value checks on over 20 completed Private Finance Initiative hospital schemes.

The Department of Health's guidelines state that NHS trusts in charge of completed hospitals have to carry out a thorough review of the procurement and building process.

The guidelines add: 'Sponsors of capital projects in the NHS are required by the Department of Health, HM Treasury and the National Audit Office to evaluate and learn from their projects.This is mandatory for projects with a cost in excess of £1 million.

'In the case of capital projects (priority schemes valued over £20 million) it is mandatory for the completed post-project evaluation report to be submitted to the Department of Health.'

News of the missing reports follows a Freedom of Information Act request by Construction News to see all the evaluations.

A department spokesman said: 'The department had good links with the early PFI projects.We have a well established system of feeding lessons learnt from these projects into new schemes through regular meetings with current project directors and NHS managers.'

But other department sources said that mistakes had been made. One said: 'The reports should have been done when the projects were completed.The department has now realised this and is chasing them up as quickly as possible.'

The reviews look at all aspects of the project and should be submitted between six months and a year after project completion. But of the 21 PFI hospital projects worth £1.5 billion that have been built so far only Mowlem's £160 million James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough and Barr's £8 million Castle Hill project in Hull have had evaluations submitted for them to the department.

David Price of the University College of London's hospital research body, the Public Health Policy Unit, said: 'Despite the number of hospitals that have been built, there has not been the level of post-project evaluation that you would expect and none of those that have been done have been designed to establish whether PFI was the best procurement route.'