Published: 24/03/2005, Volume II5, No. 5947 Page 9

Changes in government policy have seen the cost of one of England's most ambitious private finance initiative hospital projects more than double - despite a dramatic fall in the number of proposed beds.

The University Hospitals of Leicester trust development will now cost at least£761m, compared with the£286m quoted when it was announced in February 2001. The number of additional beds, however, has fallen from 376 to just 49.

Trust chief executive Dr Peter Reading said the scheme to reconfigure three hospitals - Glenfield, Leicester General and Leicester Royal Infirmary - was a 'really good deal for the NHS'.

But he added that it was 'crucial' for primary care trusts in the city to 'deliver the goods' on chronic-disease management and providing care closer to home.

'The scheme has grown because of a number of factors driven by national policy, and part of that is around consumerism - single rooms, smaller wards, better facilities for patients and staff, ' said Dr Reading.

Last week the trust announced that its PFI partner would be Equion.

Costs for the scheme have stayed 'broadly the same', with the increased capital costs also providing more buildings and a speedier completion date, explained Dr Reading.

Dr Reading said the number of beds had to be reduced because the city's six PCTs would be sending fewer patients to the hospitals through better demand management and improved care for longterm conditions.

'It is crucial they deliver on their side of the bargain; they know that and I am sure they will.'