Northern Ireland's first PFI scuppered

Nothern Ireland's first PFI project to build a complete hospital has been scuppered by the NHS trust which initiated it.

A consortium advised by Belfast firm Elliott Duffy Garrett expected the Down Lisburn NHS Trust to name its preferred bidder for a PFI scheme to build a new £13m Downe Hospital last week.

Instead the trust, advised by Lovell White Durrant and Belfast firm L'Estrange & Brett, wrote to say that the consortium's proposals did not provide value for money. The trust is now seeking funding from the Department of Health.

PFIs have been slow in taking off in the province. One education project has been signed as well as a few small health schemes. Mark Finlay, a director of London and Belfast Land, the property developer leading the bidding consortium in the Downe Hospital bid, blamed the attitude of Northern Ireland public sector agencies.

“Perhaps the Northern Ireland health trusts have not yet fully woken up to the fact that the new Labour administration is totally committed to PFI,” he said, claiming that many were expecting the Government's review of health trust PFIs by Malcolm Bates, chairman of Pearl Assurance, to scrap PFI.

“They were hoping that things would return to the way they used to be with public sector investment. Northern Ireland has a heritage of reliance on the public sector.”