The Department of Health has compiled an express list of private companies from which local authorities can cherry pick a partner to finance the modernisation of healthcare facilities.

Established in 2001, LIFT (Local Improvement Finance Trust) is a private finance initiative that offers primary care trusts and local authorities the chance to set up capital agreements with private companies.

The scheme has already provided more than £1.5 billion of private funding, which is currently being used by around half of PCTs to update their existing facilities and build new GP surgeries and health centres.

Express LIFT was launched back in August 2008 in order to significantly speed up the procurement process and reduce the cost of wasted bids, which is particularly important during the current credit crunch. The idea is to offer PCTs a list of pre-approved private partners so that procurement can be carried out faster - in a matter of months as opposed to two years – and more cost effectively, the government says.

According to health minister Ben Bradshaw, the companies approved on the Express LIFT framework “will go one step further in cutting down on the time and cost of the procurement process and help the scheme expand rapidly,” which, he claims, will enable more PCTs and local authorities to “take advantage of its benefits - faster builds, improved working conditions for staff, better care environments for patients, and better overall facilities available for the local community”.

And also voicing his support, GP Ian Mitchell, Chair of NHS Cumbria's professional executive committee, said: “By working with a LIFT Company to create purpose-built facilities, where healthcare is often on the same site as pharmacies and social care services, we can provide modern and much improved services, closer to where people live. This will bring benefits to both patients and professionals”.