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Editor’s blog Thursday 19 August 2010: Has Lansley changed his mind on PFI?

I missed this recent Guardian editorial on PFI, but certainly didn't miss Alan Maynard's witty recent deconstruction of PFI for that parish.

Today, they have a letter on the theme from Keep Our NHS Public (do KONP oppose the mainly private provision of general practice?). This letter by Sam Semoff asserts that key figures used in the outline business case for the Royal Liverpool PFI, which Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has signed off to go ahead, are wrong.

You all know the argument about PFI - government can always borrow money most cheaply. PFI's proponents argue that it ensures maintenance cannot be skimped in times of austerity and that projects are copleted on time and on budget (oh, and the biggest  PFI proponent of all saw that it kept government borrowing off the balance sheet).

PFI's opponents point out that there has been no meaningful transfer of risk (the principal economic argument); that the public sector comparators are essentially fiction;  that the consortia's profits and re-selling of debt represent unreasonable profit-making; that so changeable a need as hospital provision is ill-served by 30-year deals.

Prior to the election, Lansley and Chancellor George Osborne made various references to PFI's unsuitability, as we noted here. There is scant ambiguity about the phrase “PFI, from the point of view of a major NHS trust, has never fulfilled their purposes. There has always been an issue in generating the capital needed, particularly at moment”.

What or who has changed Mr Lansley's mind?