Letters

If NHS finance director Colin Reeves really believes that 'the facts speak for themselves' on the private finance initiative (letters, page 26, 15 June), why doesn't he address the facts about Kidderminster Hospital?

For over three years Worcestershire health authority and its chief executive, Pat Archer-Jones, have refused to answer key questions about the viability of Worcester's PFI-financed hospital, which spells the doom of Kidderminster General Hospital.

It has refused to explain how the new Worcester Royal Infirmary will be able to maintain emergency and waiting list services after a 35 per cent reduction in the county's acute beds. These cuts are considerably greater than those suggested by the most gung-ho of the HA's own management consultants.

There has been talk of expanding community services, but Mrs Archer-Jones has identified neither the plans nor the resources for an expansion on such an unprecendented scale. Her HA preferred to tough out a judicial review rather than answer these questions, and Mr Reeves is clearly in no position to shed any light. Nor has the HA satisfactorily answered concerns that it is rushing the closure of Kidderminster's acute and emergency services, two years before the new hospital will open, to create a fait accompli .It clearly hopes to forestall the inevitable calls for beds to be reopened when the experiment goes wrong.

Fears about the project's viability have been intensified by the chronic shortage of beds already affecting Worcester Royal Infirmary, resulting in crisis measures and use of makeshift beds. Mr Reeves has no response to these facts.

It is no use Mr Reeves pointing to the hospital which has just opened as proof that 'PFI is a success': we will only be able to test the financial and service viability of this and other schemes over time.

So far nothing suggests trusts will be able to slash bed numbers without triggering crises in other local services. But with NHS assets sold off and revenue budgets top sliced to the limit to finance PFI schemes, there will be no easy way to retrieve the situation if bed numbers do prove insufficient.

Popular local services are being dismantled by high-handed and remote NHS managers, in defiance of the financial and clinical advice they themselves commissioned.

John Lister Information director London Health Emergency