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Wednesday, March 16, 2005

PFI rip-offs- Ex-hospital manager reveals high cost

A whislteblower in the NHS is threatening to lift the lid on alleged falling standards and hidden costs at Britain’s first Private Finance Initiative (PFI) hospital.
Elaine Butler, formerly a professional facilities manager at Darent Valley Hospital in Kent, is bringing an unfair dismissal case before an employment tribunal under whistleblower guidelines. She alleges that she became the victim of a hate campaign by managers at Carillion, the stock market- listed contractor, after she questioned their performance in providing cleaning and catering facilities to Darent Valley.
Mrs Butler, 47, a mother of two who has worked for the NHS for 27 years, alleges that she was unfairly dismissed by the Dartford & Gravesham NHS Trust after Carillion managers labelled her a troublemaker and claimed that she could endanger the hospital’s three-star rating.
Mrs Butler will argue that the trust was put under pressure to get rid of her because she had the professional knowledge to expose alleged shortcuts that Carillion was taking.
“My problem was that I was the bringer of bad news. But from what I could see PFI is not in the best interests of the public and is not value for money,” Mrs Butler told The Times.
“I joined the NHS in 1977 and I considered it a privilege. I’ve had many offers from the private sector over the years but I remained loyal to the NHS. I was trying to bring higher standards but I had to go because I threatened the reputation of Carillion and of the whole system.”
The case, which is being supported by the GMB union, could be highly embarrassing for the Department of Health and the NHS trust, which are desperate to portray Darent Valley, Britain’s first PFI hospital, as an unalloyed success. It will also raise eyebrows because the National Audit Office last month revealed that the companies involved had 56 per cent returns on investment.
Mrs Butler was a professional facilities manager at the hospital from June 2002 and had to make sure that Carillion, the main service provider, fulfilled its cleaning and catering obligations. She had to justify invoices for up to £2 million a month.
Her expertise was praised by a Cabinet Office party in January 2003 and a team from the National Audit Office highlighted her role’s importance.
However, her relationship with the Carillion team and her own managers became strained after she marked down Carillion’s cleaning performance in the summer of 2003 and penalised the contractor financially. The relationship deteriorated further when she questioned variable expenses — including the price of fitting light switches — which were escalating rapidly. Variable facilities costs rocketed from £14,000 a month to £163,000, with a noticeable increase when Mrs Butler was off sick with stress.
The first sign of trouble came in November 2003 with an anonymous letter to the trust’s chief executive, criticising Mrs Butler’s personal and professional capabilities. That resulted in suspension and investigation over unnamed allegations.
She was exonerated by internal investigation before Christmas 2003 but on returning to work was told to distance herself from the service providers. A short time later she received the first of several suspicious packages — a kipper. “Someone wanted to suggest I had been strung up like one,” she said.
In the following months she felt ostracised before being given redundancy and three months’ notice. She claims the stress caused by her treatment made her physically sick, with symptoms similar to meningitis and temporary hearing loss.
After complaining about her case to the Secretary of State for Health, Mrs Butler’s concerns have been referred to the NHS Counter-Fraud and Security Management Service.
A spokesman for the NHS trust declined to comment on the case but said: “We have an excellent relationship with our PFI partners and have service-level agreements in place to ensure the highest levels of service. Recently the patient environment action team again gave the trust the highest green rating and the trust retained its maximum three-star performance rating for the second consecutive year.”
A spokesman for Carillion said he was unable to comment on the details of the case.
SHEDDING LIGHT ON DIY COSTS
Hanging a mirror: £201.53
Fitting a twin-amp socket: £192 to £423
Adding/modifying a light switch: £333
Hanging a picture: £18.25

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,8122-1514481,00.html

1 Comments:

  • Elaine Butler is correct in what she says regarding Carillion's short cuts in service. I work within Carillion and have witnessed wide spread fraud and sub standard work being carried out. The trust are being charged top rates and basically getting sub standard work.The latest being the upgrade to the A + E lighting.

    By Blogger kev_the_cat, at 6:36 PM  

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