Firm in healthcare bid

A PRIVATE-sector company headed by local family doctors is set to bid to take over healthcare in Huntingdonshire. If successful, the bid would effectively re-create the former Huntingdonshire Primary Care trust – amalgamated with the county s four other P

A PRIVATE-sector company headed by local family doctors is set to bid to take over healthcare in Huntingdonshire.

If successful, the bid would effectively re-create the former Huntingdonshire Primary Care trust - amalgamated with the county's four other PCTs into Cambridgeshire PCT in October 2006 - and combine it with management of Hinchingbrooke Hospital.

Mixed messages are emerging from the NHS about whether the bid will be allowed to proceed. The East of England Strategic Health Authority acknowledges that it has had an approach, but says it has been discounted. The would-be bidders say that chimes with neither the reaction it has had from the SHA nor with encouraging noises from the Department of Health.

The issue is about what happens to the management of Hinchingbrooke when its board is disbanded in April 2009 to slash £1million running expenses from the budget. The PCT's assumption was that it would be another NHS organisation, but the new plan throws up an alternative clinician-led approach.


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Behind the move is a joint venture between Anglia Health Solutions, which includes three Huntingdonshire GPs, hospital consultants and Michael Lynch, former chairman of Huntingdonshire PCT, and Interhealth Canada, the UK arm of a public-private partnership that already runs orthopaedic services in Cheshire and Worcestershire.

The joint venture has proposed two possible scenarios - take the whole thing off your hands, including the financial risk and guarantee to improve total healthcare for the same money, or just manage the hospital more efficiently and share the savings with the NHS.

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The SHA showed interest when originally approached in July, Michael Lynch said, but the authority recently told The Hunts Post: "The team from NHS East of England, Cambridgeshire PCT and Hinchingbrooke Healthcare NHS Trust charged with finding the right provider of services at Hinchingbrooke has yet to establish the criteria for appointing a new management team. The level of services and the pledge on further public consultation from the previous consultation carried out by Cambridgeshire PCT remain in place.

"As a result of the outcome of that consultation, a number of organisations expressed an interest in the future of Hinchingbrooke and any role they could play in that future. This includes Interhealth Canada and Anglia Health Solutions, which sent a speculative proposal to the team. This proposal was read and then discounted.

The SHA expects to have decided on the future shape of the management by the middle of 2008.

AHS and Interhealth will almost certainly bid when the SHA produces a tender document on the assumption that there are savings to be grabbed.

But the joint venture is convinced that it would bring more than just that to the party. AHS already runs a minor surgery clinic at the hospital on Saturday mornings, which also caters for procedures the NHS can no longer afford to pay for, and has run an A&E triage service, screening patients who can be dealt with by GPs from those who need specialist A&E treatment.

Dr Patrick Byrne, a Ramsey GP who is a director of AHS and its company secretary, believes family doctor involvement will guarantee a better experience for patients. "We know where the inefficiencies are in the system, and we want to deal with them for the benefit of our patients," he told The Hunts Post.

The current management will be looking to sell off the redundant wards at the southern end of the Hinchingbrooke site after patients have been moved to wards in the main hospital next year. The joint venture has more expansive ideas.

"Geographically, that land is well placed for a regional centre for certain under-supplied specialised services, such as rehabilitation and mental health services, rather than sell it for housing or a DIY warehouse," Interhealth's UK chief executive Hugh Risebrow said. "It would mean we were better placed to attract a wider range of clinicians to Hinchingbrooke. It could become a mini-health campus.

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