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Last Updated: Monday, 27 December, 2004, 09:19 GMT
Unison raises privatisation fears
Big cigarette packet
Unison says the smoking ban is deflecting attention from PFI
Scotland's public sector union Unison has accused the Scottish Executive of obscuring proposals to privatise health centres.

The union said the Smoking, Health and Social Care (Scotland) Bill contained the controversial proposal.

Unison Scotland's David Prentis said the move to ban smoking in public places, while laudable, was being given the most attention.

Mr Prentis warned against introducing PFI into primary care.

The bill is due to come into effect by the spring of 2006.

The last thing Scotland needs is PFI-style waste introduced into its primary care sector
David Prentis
Unison
Mr Prentis said: "Originally, this bill was a collection of miscellaneous proposals dealing with certain aspects of the health service in Scotland.

"The most controversial thing in it was the proposal to allow health boards to become involved in joint venture companies - called LIFTs - paying private firms to own and run your local health centres and other primary care facilities.

"The introduction of the ban on smoking in public places into the legislation - although this is a welcome positive step for public health - has taken the attention away from this attempt to introduce PFI/PPP into primary care."

'Long-term contracts'

Mr Prentis said the taxpayer would have to pay 3bn for three PPP hospitals in Scotland that cost just over 350m.

"The last thing Scotland needs is PFI-style waste introduced into its primary care sector," he added.

Katie Murphy, vice convenor of Unison, warned the executive of confusing both health issues.

The bill covers a broad range of issues and is designed to protect the public and improve the delivery of health services
Scottish Executive spokesman
"Unison Scotland believes that there should be a wide-ranging consultation regarding joint ventures and the use of LIFT involving all sectors of the community particularly older people, children, ethnic minority groups and disabled people.

"To lump this important matter in with the smoking ban consultation will do nothing for accountability.

"These schemes will commit health boards to long-term contracts, put extensive resources into the setting up of the scheme, leasing and maintenance, but will not own the building at the end of the contract."

A Scottish Executive spokesman said: "The Smoking, Health and Social Care (Scotland) Bill covers a broad range of issues and is designed to protect the public and improve the delivery of health services.

"This will include giving health boards greater choice and flexibility in providing primary health care facilities that meet the needs of local communities."


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