The complex structure of the public-private company NHS LIFT became further confused this week when the Department of Health announced that it would form 'a joint-venture company, 'Natco', to deliver investment in the primary healthcare sector through NHS LIFT.

Natco will be formed jointly by the DoH and Partnerships UK (PUK), the successor to the Treasury Taskforce and itself a public-private partnership following the sale of 51 per cent of the company - which had been wholly government-owned - to private sector investors earlier this month.

The sell-off raised fears of a potential conflict of interest as companies involved in private finance initiative projects, such as Serco, are among PUK's investors. Conflict could arise because PUK will advise on public-private projects for which investor firms might also bid.