Prime minister says yes to schemes in Leeds, Oxford, Portsmouth, Blackburn, Derby and Havering.
Tony BLair this week gave government approval for a third wave of private finance initiative hospitals worth £650m.

The projects, at Leeds, Oxford, Portsmouth, Blackburn, Derby and Havering, east London, are likely to start on site from 2001.

Blair announced the go-ahead during a visit to Kvaerner’s £100m PFI hospital at Greenwich, south-east London, which is now on site.

The Leeds scheme is worth £125m, Oxford £71m, Portsmouth £75m, Blackburn £52m, Derby £177m and Havering £148m.

Blair also used his visit to reinforce his support for the PFI, which had come under attack from the British Medical Journal and doctors’ leaders at a British Medical Association conference in Belfast.

He said: “Doctors, like patients, do not feel this great ideological opposition to the PFI. If it builds hospitals and modern facilities for the NHS, that is what they want.

So do patients. So does this government, and that is what we are delivering.” He added that the PFI would ensure that all the third-wave hospitals would be built on time and on budget.

“We have reformed the PFI so it works well. The six hospital projects given the go-ahead today take the number of major PFI developments to 31, with a value of £3bn, approved in the NHS since the election.” Labour prioritised 15 projects worth £1.3bn within four months of taking office and a second wave of 10 in April last year.

If the PFI builds hospitals and modern facilities, that is what doctors and patients want

Tony Blair

The third wave of six has now been approved by the NHS Capital Prioritisation Advisory Group, which assesses whether projects are suitable for construction according to health need.

Three projects, at Wakefield, West Hertfordshire and Kent & Sussex, have been sent back for more work.

Kvaerner’s stake in the Greenwich PFI hospital is about to be sold. Pacific Energy, a company headed by Kvaerner director John Fletcher, will complete the acquisition of Kvaerner Corporate Development, which owns all Kvaerner’s PFI stakes, in the next few days.

Pacific Energy is backed by Australian bank Macquarie in a £65m deal to buy Kvaerner Corporate Development, which owns all Kvaerner’s PFI stakes.

French giant Bouygues had been expected to take over construction work on some of these projects, but it is understood that Kvaerner will now retain them.

A management buyout team, led by Hong Kong-based director Tony Rae, is tipped to buy Kvaerner’s Cleveland Bridge Steelwork contracting subsidiary for over £15m.