Hospital staff car parking

Tuesday May 14th 2019

Staff parking at Royal Infirmary Edinburgh

Letter written by Mark Holmes

I have sympathy with this situation, not least given that my wife is a clinical microbiologist at the hospital and will lose her permit in August. See Midlothian View article HERE.

However, your characterisation of PFI as the cause of this problem is factually incorrect. The hospital is not privately owned, it is privately operated. It is owned by the NHS Trust and is leased to the private company to carry out its facilities management services. The private company then grant a lease back so that the Trust can occupy the hospital to carry out the hospital’s clinical services (it’s called a lease and leaseback arrangement).

Further, just because it was built under a PFI contract it doesn’t follow that the private company must/will charge for parking. This is a decision taken effectively by the Trust. The reason it is done is that the revenue from parking generated by the private company reduces the revenue that the Trust would otherwise have to pay the private company to cover the cost of building and operating the hospital (so the private company is just the fall guy here). The NHS has a choice whether or not to do it this way.

Whilst the cost of buying out the PFI contract as a whole would be expensive (they are expensive to build), the NHS Trust does have an option to make an Authority Variation which would allow it to buy out only the parking element of the contract i.e. the NHS could choose to pay now the present value of the private company’s future income from parking; thus making it ‘free’ at the point of use.

It has become politically expedient to criticise PFI on a superficial basis without really understanding the facts. There is a delusion that the alternative to PFI is hospitals being built for free by some benevolent gang of public sector workers.

The non-PFI hospitals are built by the same private sector companies – just not with the mortgage style funding you see with PFI. We simply don’t have the capital we need to pay for the critical infrastructure we need without these types of contracts. And they are successfully used around the rest of the world for infrastructure provision.

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