Tackling the negative effects of PFI: Conflicting reports on policy advice

The Centre for Health and the Public Interest (CHPI) has recently published a report on private finance initiatives (PFI).  The report, intended for policy-makers, outlines five options for coping with PFI and its lasting effects, with a particular focus on the NHS. 

The recommended options include approaches that range from improving the handling of PFI contracts by the NHS in order to obtain better value for money, to nationalizing the Special Purpose Vehicles who are responsible for managing PFI contracts.  Click here https://chpi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/CHPI-PFI-Options-Sep18-FINAL.pdf to read through all five of the report’s options.

The co-author of the report, Vivek Kotecha, recently published a blog post on the topic with the London School of Economics.  The blog discusses the lasting effects of PFI contracts on the public service with high burdens of debt, costly interest rates, and ‘profiteering’ by the private sector.  As Kotecha outlines, the intent of the CHPI report has been to enable policy-makers to make informed decisions about how to best mitigate the potential long-term burdens associated with PFI on the public sector.

However, it is important and interesting to note that leading researchers Dexter Whitfield and Helen Mercer have contested the findings and recommendations of the CHPI report, presenting their arguments and analysis within an annexe (see appendix 2) recently added to one of their co-written reports on PFI.  Click here to review the informative comments and discussion lead by Mercer and Whitfield.

The issue of PFI is of import to the public sector and with high profile cases such as the collapse of Carillion recently on the books, many will be watching closely as policy-makers respond to the handling of PFI in the future.  Research reports and recommendations will hopefully help to inform policy responses, but how evidence from the seemingly contested body of PFI research is selected, appraised, and prioritized will undoubtedly create controversy on its own.