LIFT-promoting firm is left in ‘disarray’

Posted on July 30, 2009. Filed under: Journals, LIFT |

Health Service Journal BY SALLY GAINSBURY | 30 July 2009

The government-owned company established to promote private investment in primary care is in “disarray”, according to private sector contractors. 1205149__generic_money_pound_coins

Community Health Partnerships, owned by the Department of Health, was set up to promote the local improvementfinance trust model to fund capital development in primary care.

The criticism comes after a string of changes to the executive leadership at the company. Since January, Caroline Rassell has joined CHP as chief operating officer, overseeing the finance department, and director of finance and investment Anthony Bicknell has departed. This month, director of operations George Farley also left.

Private contractors have told HSJ the turnover of staff has left the company in “disarray”. They say there have been delays in approving projects and responses to significant policy developments.

Last year’s Pre Budget Report heralded an expanded role for LIFT when it suggested entire PCT estates could be transferred to LIFT companies, but CHP has yet to issue guidance on how it might work in practice.

Dissatisfaction about CHP’s role comes as the private contractors’ lobby group – the LIFT Council – has expanded its activities.

It will now take it upon itself to develop guidance on best practice and to promote LIFT as an investment vehicle.

LIFT Council chair Chris Whitehouse would not comment on whether this reflected industry dissatisfaction with CHP but said: “We cannot sit back and wait for CHP or the DH or anyone else to get out and champion LIFT. We have to do it ourselves.”

But a CHP insider said the source of private sector discontent was a recent heightened stringency on the part of CHP, which was attempting to drive harder deals with the private sector. This had inevitably slowed deals.

“[The private sector is] being called to account more than in the past. That’s not CHP in disarray, but being more on top of things,” the insider said.

CHP chief executive Sue O’Connell said the organisation had very deliberately refocused its activities on supporting PCTs.

“A rethink has also been vital in the current economic climate, when it is more important than ever to achieve best value from the public sector in infrastructure development and estate management.”

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