STEVE Sweeney, secretary of Huntingdonshire Trades Union Council, obviously prefers to live in the past rather than look forward to the future as far as Hinchingbrooke Hospital is concerned.

As a passionate advocate of Hinchingbrooke Hospital, I fully supported the decision to try a different form of management for the hospital. The former Hinchingbrooke Hospital board was some eight years past its mismanagement sell-by date prior to the Circle franchise being selected.

Let us not forget it was a Labour government that initiated the private sector option and the current government continued with that selection process. So it is unlikely that the franchise contract will be terminated in the foreseeable future as result of his trade union campaigning.

Also, to which private sector model is Mr Sweeney referring when he states the “Private sector model is not fit”?

There are number of private sector models operating within the NHS, the majority working very successfully:

• The majority of GPs are private sector contractors and the staff they employ are employed by the GP practice

• The majority of dentists undertaking NHS dental work are private sector contractors and the staff they employ are employed by the dental practice

• Some 60 per cent of NHS mental health provision is provided by the private sector

• The majority of nursing and residential care is provided by the private sector

• A growing number of NHS hospitals are now operated or managed by the private sector and, as far as I am aware, none have so far failed

However, we have had a number of catastrophic clinical and financial failures within the NHS public sector model, such as:

• Alder Hey

• Bristol

• Mid-Staffordshire

• Airedale

• SE London

• St Mary's Paddington

• Peterborough

These examples (there are more), plus Hinchingbrooke Hospital's own financial mismanagement, demonstrate that there is no “utopian solution” to the ills of the NHS. So it would seem sensible to explore other models of management, whether they are public or private sector models.

Also, may I recommend that Mr Sweeney reads Inquiries: Learning from Failure in the NHS by Professor Kieran Walsh. Sadly, most of those who were responsible for such failures moved on to bigger and better paid jobs within the NHS and some received knighthoods, CBEs and OBEs. It sometimes seems in the NHS that “nothing succeeds like failure”.

I believe that all of us Huntingdonshire stakeholders and patients should do all we can to ensure that we support the Hinchingbrooke board and Circle Health (as we are where we are and cannot turn the clock back) to turn Hinchingbrooke into a world class district general hospital. To do this, which is an outcome I am confident that Mr Sweeney and I both share, I believe that not only does Hinchingbrooke have to deliver excellent clinical and financial outcomes, but that it also has to gain and retain the confidence of the public and its stakeholders.

I believe passionately that only by being as transparent and as openly accountable as possible will the trust board and Circle gain and retain that confidence. We can assist the board and circle in this via constructive criticism (when required) and holding them to account as and when we need to do so and by whatever means available.

I do hope that on these latter matters Mr Sweeney, his Trades Union Council and I all agree.


Victoria Crescent