IT is encouraging to learn that efforts are being made to reduce the crippling Great Western Hospital PFI debt burden.

Even allowing for the potential unfairness of 20/20 hindsight, it beggars the imagination that anybody could have signed such a disadvantageous deal.

Tragically, that is precisely what happened. An awful lot of people who should have known better decided that saddling our local health service with payments currently set at £18m was an acceptable use of public resources.

This was the price of the replacement for the old Princess Margaret Hospital, which was deemed hopelessly outmoded and undersized in spite of having been officially opened less than four decades earlier.

There is still about £234m to pay for a new hospital which, though modern, is already prone to overcrowding and delays during busy periods.

The local officials who agreed to the deal can mostly be excused on the grounds that they were left little or no alternative if new hospital provision was to be made.

Neither should blame be attached to PFI debt holders Semperian. Criticising the organisation makes about as much sense as criticising fire for being hot or ice for being cold.

True responsibility rests with the politicians of the era, who declared PFI the end to NHS infrastructure problems, although dwelling on such matters is pointless.

We should concentrate instead on digging ourselves as far as possible out of this money pit, and council leader David Renard and South Swindon MP Robert Buckland deserve praise for promising to help.