The French Health Ministry, the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the main French banks specialising in the hospitals sector have joined forces to support the upgrading of French hospitals under the Hospitals Plan 2007.

A statement of intent, worth EUR 500 million, was signed in Paris on 15 September 2005 by France's Health Minister Xavier Bertrand and EIB Vice-President Philippe de Fontaine Vive. This follows on from a first a statement of intent - also worth EUR 500 million, today allocated in full - signed on 15 December 2003 by the French Government, the EIB and the two initial banking partners (the Dexia and Caisse d'Epargne groups, which have now been joined by the Crédit Agricole and Société Générale groups).

The aim of the Hospitals Plan 2007, as declared by the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister, is in particular to speed up the modernisation of France's hospitals by helping them to undertake capital investment that budgetary constraints would otherwise have ruled out during the five-year period in question.

Under the plan, the government intends to make available to the hospitals extra resources enabling them to invest an additional EUR 10 billion over five years, more than half of which is expected to be financed by the health insurance sector, mainly through assistance with loan repayments.

With this new operation, the EIB and its partner banks are reaffirming their commitment to supporting the investment drive launched under the Hospitals Plan 2007. The EIB's French Hospitals operations - which are additional to its direct support for very large-scale projects - are enabling the Bank to finance medium-scale French hospital schemes to the tune of EUR 1 billion.

In order to undertake these long-term investments under their multiannual investment programmes (generally for amounts of between EUR 25 and 150 million), the public healthcare institutions and private not-for-profit participants in the public hospitals service are raising bank loans. The EIB's French Hospitals programme will enable them to obtain the keenest maturity and interest rate terms.

Implementation of the EIB's French Hospitals projects rests on a partnership with the main banks lending to healthcare institutions. Thanks to their knowledge of the sector, the regional directorates and networks of the Dexia, Caisse d'Epargne, Crédit Agricole and Société Générale groups helped to identify the investment schemes that will benefit from EIB funding. More than one hundred hospitals are in the frame, presenting a range of projects: rebuilding or extension of hospital sites; construction of new hospital units; restructuring of medical or medico-technical services; refurbishment of existing hospitals; construction of joint logistics or technical bases operating from a single point.

The proceeds of the first French Hospitals operation were allocated in a little more than a year to some twenty hospitals spread throughout France. The cost of the multiannual investment plans financed ranged from EUR 27 to 138 million, averaging EUR 75.5 million. Over half of the projects supported were located in assisted areas.

Financing the upgrading of health infrastructure in Europe has been one of the EIB's priorities since 1997 as such investment both fosters the EU's economic and social cohesion by helping to provide access to the best health and hospital services in the less developed regions and stimulates the development of new technologies. Since that year the Bank has made available nearly EUR 8 billion for the modernisation or construction of hospital and healthcare facilities in the European Union (including in new Member States such as Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Cyprus). In France, it has granted loans totalling EUR 1.5 billion to the sector, either directly or via its partner banks, supporting in particular the seven hospitals of Fort de France, Lyon, Strasbourg, Toulouse, Tours, Nantes and Arras.