Private firm Circle expecting to make money from Hinchingbrooke Hospital for first time

17:55 29 January 2014

Circle new Chief Executive Hisham Abdel-Rahman, at Hinchingbrooke Hospital

Circle new Chief Executive Hisham Abdel-Rahman, at Hinchingbrooke Hospital

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Circle – the private healthcare firm – is expecting to make money from Hinchingbrooke Hospital for the first time in the next financial year.

The company, which will enter its third year of running the Huntingdon hospital on Saturday, expects to balance, or nearly balance, the 2013/14 books – from a forecast of a £10million deficit.

Hisham Abdel-Rahman, who was appointed hospital chief ­executive last year, said he expected there to be a budget surplus in Circle’s third year.

As part of the franchise, Circle is entitled to keep the first £2m of the surplus, with any excess used to make a dent in Hinchingbrooke’s historic £38m debt.

In order to clear the debt, Circle will need to have a budget surplus of about £6.75m in each of the remaining eight years of its contract. If it achieves this, it would trigger a £31m reward.

While the figures are large, Circle states that getting the financial side correct allows for a secure hospital, secure staff and better care.

Mr Abdel-Rahman said: “Two years ago, Hinchingbrooke was on the verge of closing.

“We were overwhelmed by financial problems and, too often, patients didn’t get the care they deserved.

“Today, our hospital has been transformed. We are consistently ranked one of the top hospitals in the country by patients, and health inspectors have given us a clean bill of health.

“Most importantly, our hospital has been secured for the future.”

Hinchingbrooke is seen as a secure place people would like to work, Mr Abdel-Rahman said, and since 2012 has taken on 40 new consultants.

“They want to come here because they are attracted to the clinically-led hospital and now there is also more job security than before.”

That has seen a fall in locum costs of more than half to £160,000 a month – the chief executive said it was still too high – and a fall in staff turnover.

He said: “We are looking to be more productive, more integrated and have more of a network. Being more productive means being more efficient.

“A lot of departments have been putting together ways of being more innovative, and some will come into force in April. The departments are also looking at our IT system and how we can become an e-hospital.”

Hinchingbrooke is also leading a forum involving community and social services, the ambulance service and others to respond to increasing demand for health services and improve community care, reducing dependency on the hospital.

Other plans include close ties with the community, such as inviting schools into the hospital so children are less daunted if they are admitted, an improved apprentice scheme, and the launch of a dementia friend project where volunteers spend time with people with dementia or who are lonely.

Circle also has plans to expand, Mr Adbel-Rahman said. It has bid to run the George Eliot Hospital, in Nuneaton, and is looking at applying to manage Peterborough City Hospital – a tender process is expected to start in April.

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