Hinchingbrooke: We all rallied to get things done

A YEAR ago, Hinchingbrooke s finances were out of control, both managerially and economically, and heading rapidly and catastrophically southwards. Enter Mark Millar, experienced NHS finance guru brought in by the East of England Strategic Health Authorit

A YEAR ago, Hinchingbrooke's finances were out of control, both managerially and economically, and heading rapidly and catastrophically southwards.

Enter Mark Millar, experienced NHS finance guru brought in by the East of England Strategic Health Authority. The hospital could never have been closed, but it was at serious risk of having most of its frontline services removed to cut the spiralling deficit.

Hold hard, Mr Millar told the SHA, it's not a complete basket case. Don't write it off yet.

Exit finance director Phil Richards and chief executive Douglas Pattisson, who had presided over the financial crisis, whether or not they could have prevented it.


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Enter Jane Herbert, a consultant on a six-month contract, whose remit was to find a fix. She did, starting by discovering that the financial crisis was even worse than anyone had thought. She achieved two crucial things. She got a grip on financial management, and she persuaded not just hospital clinicians but GPs and other healthcare professionals that they could save the hospital if they changed the way they worked.

She was the catalyst. They provided the solutions. Between them, they persuaded the SHA and the PCT that Hinchingbrooke could be put back on the rails.

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Newspapers and public administrators are not natural bedfellows. But, when The Hunts Post helped to show them how strongly the people of Huntingdonshire - and a great many neighbouring districts that also rely on Hinchingbrooke services - felt about the issue, they could not have done more to save your hospital.

You, we, our MPs, our councils have all made our feelings very clear. But in the end it was the SHA and the PCT, knowing that we were standing behind them, that took on Whitehall and fought our corner very effectively and prevailed. These bureaucrats are no longer faceless. The bodies they represent have existed for a year or less, but their people have now become part of our community.

We have to play our part in making it work by using the NHS responsibly. We shall hear more on that subject when the PCT explains shortly what changes we should expect.

What do the staff think?

SUCH A RELIEF: Bob Dybiec, director of support service facilities, 54, who has worked at the hospital for 12 years and lives in Upwood, said:

"It is such a relief. In the last year we have lost so many good quality people and

trying to get them back is going to be a top priority.

"It was awful to think that we might have lost our jobs.

We thought we were one step away from locking the doors and turning off the lights. I do not think any of us realised how bad it was. But when we were told our jobs were on the line it was unsettling.

"The fact the hospital seems to be in the clear is a credit to a lot of people."

MASSIVE LOAD OFF OUR SHOULDERS: Gloria Ward, receptionist/navigator, in her early 60s, who has worked at the hospital for nine years and lives in St Neots, said: "This is excellent news and we are all relieved. It is a massive load off our shoulders. It means people do not have to worry so much.

"Patients were coming into the treatment centre saying 'we can not travel to Addenbrooke's or Peterborough'. On Friday, a lady came in to ask for an address for the management so she could write to them and say how brilliant it is that the hospital is staying open.

"The hospital, the workers and patients have all helped to prevent it closing."

EXCELLENT NEWS: Judy Ophield, senior sister in A&E and the Medical Assessment Unit, 51, who has worked at the hospital for 21 years and lives in

Somersham, said: "It is excellent news. Many staff were concerned about their jobs. We all clubbed together to support each other.

"I do not know what will happen in 10 years but for the time being the news is good."

GOOD NEWS FOR

EVERYONE: Pauline Smith, relief receptionist, 57, who has worked at the hospital for 24 years and lives in Huntingdon said: "It is good news for everyone. It was frightening to think we would have to go to Addenbrooke's or Peterborough.

"Huntingdon has always had a hospital as I remember and it should stay that way."

NEEDS TO BE QUALIFIED:

Dr Colin Borland, consultant physician, 55, who lives in Brampton and has worked at the hospital for 21 years, said: "I think it is very good news but I think that it needs to be qualified because clearly there are detailed discussions continuing and they are central concerns about the future of smaller hospitals across the country.

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