Hospitals built under the private finance initiative are closing beds and cutting jobs in a “desperate bid” to balance their books, a campaign group has claimed.

Health Emergency said it had also discovered “asset stripping” sales of land and property as trusts also have to cope with the current round of public spending cuts.

Land is being sold by PFI-built hospitals in London, while a growing number of nursing and other jobs are being cut across the country, including hundreds at the new £256m 1,200 bed Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth, said the group.

Many other PFI hospitals are facing financial problems but have yet to announce cuts, claimed Health Emergency.

Its information director, Dr John Lister, said: “PFI means that hospitals face rising bills each year, regardless of their income.

“It also means that private sector profits are protected by legally binding contracts taking an increased share of declining trust budgets, while clinical services, patient care and the jobs of NHS staff are sacrificed, in an impossible battle to balance the books as the NHS faces real-terms cuts for the first time in a decade.

“Isn’t it significant that health secretary Andrew Lansley’s massive and controversial Health and Social Care Bill is seeking to break up almost every structure in our NHS, claiming to make the system more efficient, but leaving PFI intact, and instead opening even more ways for the private sector to rip off the taxpayer and undermine public services?

“The Tories appeared opportunistically critical of their own PFI policy when Labour was implementing it, but are now happy to see this growing haemorrhage of cash from the NHS.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: “The government is clear that every penny available must go on frontline care.

“The NHS must continue to find savings in big and small ways and that includes in PFI contracts. Every penny saved is a penny extra to improve the quality of patient care.”