Hit squads of accountants from the NHS regulator Monitor are right now going through every aspect of the running of Peterborough City Hospital in search of cutbacks and cash savings.
The situation is desperate. The Trust ran out of money to pay bills in January, and needed a further hand-out of £50m to tide it over to the end of the financial year. Only repeated government handouts have managed to keep it afloat ever since the new hospital opened its doors. The costs of the £310 million building have plunged the Trust deep into debt.
Trust bosses defied warnings from Monitor, UNISON and many others that the plan to use private funds to finance the new building over 32 years (the Private Finance Initiative, or PFI) would be unaffordable. Deficits are now almost one fifth of the Trust’s annual £210m income.
In South London we have just seen a similar PFI debt crisis result in a Special Administrator being called in, the imposition of brutal cuts in staffing and the virtual closure of the neighbouring Lewisham Hospital. Peterborough could be the next to be subjected to this treatment: but whatever happens we can expect unpleasant and painful consequences.
UNISON has demanded a public inquiry to identify all those responsible for the Trust Board ignoring warnings and signing up to an unaffordable contract: two members of that Board are still in post in Peterborough.
To fight back against the cuts and defend our health services we need the support of the local communities in Peterborough.