Hinchingbrooke franchise consultation ‘cynical’

I NOTE from his letter to The Hunts Post (October 27) that Dr Stephen Dunn of NHS East of England does not think he has been secretive and lists numbers of meetings, web hits, press releases etc to attempt to back this up.

As someone who has attended many of the meetings mentioned, visited the web pages many times to try to find information, read all the press releases and adverts etc, I would like to disagree strongly with him.

I feel that all these so-called attempts at ‘engagement’ of the public, have been a cynical ploy to try to give the appearance of being open when in reality they are hiding all the important matters under a cloak of commercial confidentiality.

For example, as I feel that this whole matter was originally started only because of the so-called �40 million ‘loss’ that the hospital had, clearly financial matters are at the heart of this process.

So, I submitted a series of questions on the financial aspects of the proposed franchise of our hospital. Of the seven such questions I asked, five were not answered at all as they were deemed “commercial in confidence” and the two that were given some sort of answer told me that they were still considering offering the potential franchisees a subsidy to take on the franchise and that, basically, there was no ‘Plan B’ should the franchise process fail.

How are we supposed to judge whether the whole process is a good deal for the hospital and for the taxpayer, when we are apparently not to be told what the financial details are, either before or after the issue of the franchise.

What we have been told all along by the East of England strategic projects team is that everything will be OK and the public has effectively been told we should just accept these assurances without any information to back them up.

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I agree with The Hunts Post and your correspondent Annie Sly (Letters, October 10) that this whole matter is being treated in a very secretive manner with stringent efforts being made to try to convince everybody that a public consultation/engagement is going on, when it is anything but.

At the public meeting on October 27 we also learned that the stakeholder sub-group, composed of members of various interested bodies throughout the county, and which it is claimed “is there to safeguard the public in the allocation of the franchise”, appeared to be required to interview the two remaining potential franchisees with one hand tied behind their back.

Not only were they limited in the questions that they were allowed to ask, but also had to submit these to the potential franchisees well in advance.

Why did the East of England strategic projects team allow the franchisees apparently to dictate such terms?

Then we have the ridiculous situation with the potential franchisees being told that a subsidy is available for them, while the hospital itself, despite all the problems this whole process has caused, somehow managed not only to continue, but also roughly to break even financially for the last two years.

At the same time it improved care for patients (I should know, having been a patient there for the last two years), met all Government set targets and even, in the last couple of weeks, won prestigious national awards for its standards.

What on earth are we doing spending something like �1m on trying to find a franchisee to take over the management of our hospital, when clearly it is not broke and does not need fixing?


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