Could private company manage Hinchingbrooke?

WHATEVER the future management arrangements for Hinchingbrooke Hospital, the trust board will do all in its power to safeguard services and employees, its chief executive promised yesterday (Tuesday). Mark Millar s comments followed trade union reaction t

WHATEVER the future management arrangements for Hinchingbrooke Hospital, the trust board will do all in its power to safeguard services and employees, its chief executive promised yesterday (Tuesday).

Mark Millar's comments followed trade union reaction to speculation that management could be transferred to the private sector when the board is dissolved - originally envisaged for March 2009.

"The trust board's agenda is to safeguard NHS services for local people and to protect the interests of our staff," he told The Hunts Post. "That's what we should measure any proposed solutions against."

Discussions on nine possible options for the future have been going on between NHS managers for several months, but there is no preferred option.


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Cambridgeshire Primary Care Trust's public consultation a year ago envisaged that, when the trust disappeared to save £1million a year in overhead costs, management would be taken over by another NHS organisation. It was widely assumed that that would be either Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge or the Peterborough and Stamford trust, both of which have foundation status, which gives them greater financial freedom than Hinchingbrooke currently enjoys.

Those are two NHS options, but are unlikely to be the only ones being considered.

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But last summer a private consortium of hospital operator Interhealth Canada and a local GP-and-consultant-led company, Anglia Health Solutions, offered to take the hospital off the strategic health authority's hands and share any additional profits with the NHS.

The East of England SHA did not care for the original radical proposal, but it is still talking to the consortium and other possible private sector suitors. A decision is still some way off, and March 2009 is not an immutable date for dissolution of the Hinchingbrooke board.

At the heart of the decision is likely to be how the hospital's £40million historic debt - which is no longer growing - can be repaid.

As reported exclusively in The Hunts Post last November, the consortium proposed two possible solutions: taking over the whole operation including the financial risk or an operating lease that would see it managing the hospital with the NHS continuing to employ the staff.

AHS, which also includes as a director former Huntingdonshire PCT chairman Michael Lynch, believes it knows where the inefficiencies are in the overall healthcare systems in the district, could provide cheaper care and could expand the Hinchingbrooke site as a mini-health campus, instead of selling off some of the buildings to clear some of the debt.

But Mr Millar said yesterday that private sector involvement was "all speculation at the minute".

"We are working through what might be the best way forward, and the trust board will stay in place until or unless alternative arrangements are made - 2009 is not set in stone," he added.

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