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Secrecy over finances


WHILE STAFF and trade unions struggle to make sense out of the near bankruptcy affecting the four NHS trusts in outer South East London – Queen Mary's (Sidcup), Queen Elizabeth (Woolwich), Bromley and Lewisham, the government uses the Freedom of Information Act to shroud in mystery the report into why this near bankruptcy has occurred.

The joint debts of the four trusts are in the region of £218 million. The interest alone costs £5.4 million a year. But what is being ignored is the Private Finance Initiative debts. Bromley alone pays £32.4 million a year on a 60-year-contract.

The investigation utilises Section 36 of the Freedom of Information Act as the report "would be likely to inhibit free and frank exchanges of views for the purposes of deliberations". What this gibberish means is that the public who rely on these hospitals and the staff who struggle to provide the highest levels of health care are not to be allowed to know the full scale of the economic disaster facing them.

So the wonderfully entitled Freedom of Information Act suppresses the very freedom required to have free, frank and meaningful discussion. While the report will name and shame previous Board figures and senior management from the hospitals it will miss the point: the architect of PFI, Gordon Brown.