AS a passionate advocate of Hinchingbrooke Hospital, I fully support the decision to try a different form of management for the hospital.
Indeed, it was probably an initiative by Huntingdonshire GPs, supported by Interhealth Canada in 2007, that resulted in the process that eventually led to the appointment of Circle Health to manage the hospital.
Now that the former chairman and board of the hospital have been dispensed with, probably some six years after their “sell-by date”, more of their former mismanagement decisions are being revealed thanks to the Freedom of Information Act.
We now know that the current chief executive of the hospital, Mr. Nigel Beverley, is not an NHS employee, but is hired from NB Health Consulting, his own consultancy, business at a daily rate of £1,100 per day, the equivalent of £270,000-plus per annum. In addition to these fees, up to the end of January 2012 NB Health Consulting has also been paid £7,000-plus in expenses and other fees.
None of the above is Mr Beverley’s fault: no one can blame him for seeking to obtain the best possible rate for his services, as this is something most people seek to achieve.
However, his appointment is just one example of a number of mismanaged and ill-judged (secretive) decisions made by the former Hinchingbrooke chairman and board since their financial mismanagement was first brought to light in early 2006, for which they were never held to account.
Mr Beverley is only one of a number of ‘transient misfit chief executives’ engaged by the Hinchingbrooke board since 2006. However, the board’s deceit in hiding his private contractor status from the Huntingdonshire public and their own hard-working staff is scandalous.
Normally, it would have brought a request for “heads to roll” but, as the former Hinchingbrooke board culprits have now gone, those members of the strategic health authority, the chair and chief executive, who personally authorised his appointment, and those of previous acting chief executives, should also be asked to resign.
Thanks to The Sunday Times (February 19) we now know that the Hinchingbrooke Hospital appointment is not an isolated incident. Mark Millar, one of the former transient misfit chief executives of Hinchingbrooke, is currently acting as chief executive of Milton Keynes Hospital, also a consultant, employed by Mark Millar Associates, is being paid at the rate of £1,000 per day.
So it is reasonable to assume he too was paid a similar rate when employed at Hinchingbrooke. The Sunday Times article also highlighted that appointments such as Mr Beverley’s and Mark Millar’s are not unusual within the Eastern of England Strategic Health Authority area.
Given that local services, such as the Acer Ward, are being cut, it is nothing short of a national disgrace that such bloated consultancy fees are being paid on the pretext that suitable permanent NHS candidates cannot be found to fill these posts.
If the strategic heath authority board (all 19 of them) is unable to find suitable chief executive candidates for these NHS positions, they should resign today and allow a new board to do the job for them.
Since 2006, it has suited the strategic health authority to have a compliant and unchallenging Hinchingbrooke board, which resulted inter alia in the longest pre-qualification, contractor selection, tendering and appointment process (five years) in recent British commercial history, to appoint Circle Health. Yet only in the NHS could an award be given for such an inefficient and elongated process.
If the 2012 Olympics, probably the most rigorous pre-qualification, contractor selection, tendering and appointment process in recent British industrial history, had followed the strategic health authority’s Hinchingbrooke appointment process, the Olympic stadia would not have been competed until 2015.
In making these criticisms, it does not mean that I disagree with the current direction of travel for the hospital and the appointment of Circle Health to manage the hospital, as it has been clear to many in Huntingdonshire for a number of years that a new management structure was urgently required. It is just a pity it has taken so long to happen.
Finally, Circle Health should also consider substantial changes to the executive directorate at Hinchingbrooke Hospital as the executive directors must accept their share of the blame for the past mismanagement of the hospital.