Live near one of these hospitals? Try not to get ill soon.

Almost 60 hospitals could close due to PFI-related debts

View PCTs in Trouble in a larger map

South London Hospital Trust has been effectively declared bust, and the Department of Health has laid the blame at the feet of the "unaffordable" private finance initiatives started by Major's Conservative government but massively expanded by New Labour.

Once the last scheme Labour started is fully paid off, in 2049, more than £70bn will have been paid back. For the NHS as a whole, the repayments are relatively low – just £1-2bn a year from an annual budget of £100+bn. But for some individual trusts, they can reach 10 to 20 per cent of their entire annual turnover.

Now that the Department of Health seems to have moved to a policy of not bailing out these hospitals, they are all at risk of following South London Heathcare.

In September last year, the Department released a list of the 22 trusts "on the brink of financial collapse" because of PFI deals they can't afford:

St Helens and Knowsley

South London Healthcare

University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire

Wye Valley

Barking, Havering and Redbridge

Worcester

Oxford Radcliffe/Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre

Barts and the London

University Hospitals of North Staffordshire

Dartford and Gravesham

North Cumbria

Portsmouth

Buckinghamshire

West Middlesex

Mid Yorkshire

Walsall

North Middlesex

Mid Essex

Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells

Sandwell and West Birmingham (not fully signed off as of September 2011)

The Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital (not fully signed off as of September 2011)

The 22nd trust on the Department's list, North Bristol NHS Trust, has repeatedly expressed puzzlement about their inclusion. A spokesman assured me that their PFI deals are financially sound, and that repayments account for 8 per cent of their budget. They are represented in a different colour on the map to highlight the disagreement.

Additional research by Helen Robb. Updated 14:50 to acknowledge North Bristol NHS Trust's objections.

Some of the hospitals at risk of closure

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

How Jim Murphy's mistake cost Labour - and helped make Ruth Davidson

Scottish Labour's former leader's great mistake was to run away from Labour's Scottish referendum, not on it.

The strange revival of Conservative Scotland? Another poll from north of the border, this time from the Times and YouGov, shows the Tories experiencing a revival in Scotland, up to 28 per cent of the vote, enough to net seven extra seats from the SNP.

Adding to the Nationalists’ misery, according to the same poll, they would lose East Dunbartonshire to the Liberal Democrats, reducing their strength in the Commons to a still-formidable 47 seats.

It could be worse than the polls suggest, however. In the elections to the Scottish Parliament last year, parties which backed a No vote in the referendum did better in the first-past-the-post seats than the polls would have suggested – thanks to tactical voting by No voters, who backed whichever party had the best chance of beating the SNP.

The strategic insight of Ruth Davidson, the Conservative leader in Scotland, was to to recast her party as the loudest defender of the Union between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. She has absorbed large chunks of that vote from the Liberal Democrats and Labour, but, paradoxically, at the Holyrood elections at least, the “Unionist coalition” she assembled helped those parties even though it cost the vote share.

The big thing to watch is not just where the parties of the Union make gains, but where they successfully form strong second-places against whoever the strongest pro-Union party is.

Davidson’s popularity and eye for a good photo opportunity – which came first is an interesting question – mean that the natural benefactor in most places will likely be the Tories.

But it could have been very different. The first politician to hit successfully upon the “last defender of the Union” routine was Ian Murray, the last Labour MP in Scotland, who squeezed both the  Liberal Democrat and Conservative vote in his seat of Edinburgh South.

His then-leader in Scotland, Jim Murphy, had a different idea. He fought the election in 2015 to the SNP’s left, with the slogan of “Whether you’re Yes, or No, the Tories have got to go”.  There were a couple of problems with that approach, as one  former staffer put it: “Firstly, the SNP weren’t going to put the Tories in, and everyone knew it. Secondly, no-one but us wanted to move on [from the referendum]”.

Then again under different leadership, this time under Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Labour once again fought a campaign explicitly to the left of the SNP, promising to increase taxation to blunt cuts devolved from Westminster, and an agnostic position on the referendum. Dugdale said she’d be open to voting to leave the United Kingdom if Britain left the European Union. Senior Scottish Labour figures flirted with the idea that the party might be neutral in a forthcoming election. Once again, the party tried to move on – but no-one else wanted to move on.

How different things might be if instead of running away from their referendum campaign, Jim Murphy had run towards it in 2015. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

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