Calls are being made for the Government to scrap the controversial PFI contract affecting Carlisle's Cumberland Infirmary.

The Carlisle Constituency Labour Party (CLP) is making the plea, claiming it lies at the root of the hospital’s financial problems.

The Carlisle infirmary - opened by then Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2000 - was the first to be built under the controversial Private Finance Initiative (PFI).

It meant it was built by private companies who continue to own the building and North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust must make hefty annual repayments, totalling £23m in order to use it.

These payments have been held responsible by many for problems in the trust, which has long struggled to balance its books.

Current Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has made a commitment to remove private provision from the NHS, including ending PFI contracts.

A wide-ranging resolution passed at the local Labour party's recent meeting blamed the origins of the ‘deepening crisis’ in health provision in Carlisle on the costs of the PFI scheme.

Members also praised health workers and those campaigning against the Success Regime's Healthcare for the Future proposals.

They described the masterplan as "the closure, reduction and transfer away of facilities and services from local communities".

Thousands of News & Star readers have backed calls for the Success Regime to rethink its proposals by signing our Save Our Services petition, which highlights the severe concerns surrounding changes to hospital services.

They include the removal of consultant-led maternity care at Whitehaven's West Cumberland Hospital and the closure of in-patient beds at community hospitals in Maryport, Wigton and Alston.

There are fears about what impact those proposals coul d have in services at the Cumberland Infirmary.

Lee Sherriff, who chairs Carlisle CLP, said: "Over the first 14 years of this 35-year PFI contract, a total of £239m has been paid to the building and facilities management contractors.

"This is hundreds of millions of pounds of tax payers’ money going to private contractors, over and above what the costs would have been if the Cumberland Infirmary had been funded in the normal way by government borrowing.

"This is public money that could be put into our health services. Now we are faced with even more cuts to services under the proposals of the Success Regime, both at the Cumberland Infirmary and in the region it serves, meaning even greater stress will be placed on infirmary services.

"The closure of community hospital beds and the transfer of services from west Cumbria will have to be accommodated by the infirmary, according to Success Regime bosses.

"This is just not humanly possible."

Success Regime leaders, who've been tasked with coming up with solutions to the area's long-running health problems, have held a series of public meetings into the proposals.

BLOB To find out how to support the Save Our Services campaign, email