ERI owner Consort’s ‘abuse of power’ row

Jim Eadie has praised the Evening News' coverage of blunders with the ERI. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Jim Eadie has praised the Evening News' coverage of blunders with the ERI. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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A CITY MSP has renewed calls for a parliamentary debate into the running of the Capital’s flagship hospital, accusing the private firm that owns and manages the facility of an “abuse of power”.

Jim Eadie, SNP MSP for Edinburgh Southern, described the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) deal used to build and run the Royal Infirmary as one of the most “deeply flawed” agreements of its kind ever signed.

He also congratulated the Evening News for exposing a series of scandals at the hospital which were blamed on hospital PFI operator Consort – from flies being found in operating theatres from shoddy maintenance to a power blackout causing an operation to be carried out by torchlight.

NHS Lothian is also having to cope with increased winter pressure without much-needed new beds at the hospital, which it had been hoped would be in use by last year, but will now not be available until February, with delays blamed on the firm.The health service was eventually forced to agree to a clause which meant the NHS could not impose penalty points on Consort for future issues with the work – a move Mr Eadie said amounted to “blackmail”.

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Jim Hume appeared to back Mr Eadie’s call for a debate, saying many of his constituents in the South Scotland region also used the ERI and that he was keen to work constructively alongside the 45-year-old.

Mr Eadie said that “inflated” charges by Consort – believed to be £60 million per year – “robbed” the NHS, patients and its staff of vital resources.

He told MSPs: “This issue goes to the heart of a publicly run and publicly funded National Health Service. There is less money available than there would have been as a direct consequence of PFI.

“Let us be clear – these are valuable resources which could be used to recruit and retain hard-working NHS staff, provide high-quality patient care and tackle the inequalities in life expectancy and health outcomes which exist in our most deprived communities.

“This is a matter on which we should have the maximum transparency, scrutiny and debate.” Mr Eadie, who formerly worked for the Royal College of Nursing, added: “The issue of PFI is a matter of huge public interest and on which there is growing and justifiable public anger. That public anger demands a united and concerted response from MSPs of all parties.”

A previous motion from Mr Eadie calling for a debate around the hospital PFI deal attracted support from SNP and independent members, but failed to achieve the backing of another main party – needed to spark a full discussion after Labour, in power when the PFI deal was signed in 1998, refused to offer its support.

However, Mr Hume’s comments yesterday have increased the prospect of cross-party support required for the issue to be take centre stage in the full glare of parliament.

It is understood Mr Eadie in planning to table a fresh motion after the February recess and is hopeful he will finally succeed in his campaign.

Later in yesterday’s proceedings, Public Health Minister Michael Matheson received a ticking off from deputy presiding officer Elaine Smith for using unparliamentary launguage, after he dismissed Mr Findlay’s claim that just 25 medical staff worked in Lothian hospital wards as “a load of baloney”. Mr Findlay said the data had been provided by NHS Lothian.

Both NHS Lothian and Consort said last night that they did not wish to comment.