New hospital chief is ready for challenge

HINCHINGBROOKE Hospital will be in the national spotlight as its reforms roll out a model for dozens of other smaller acute hospitals, beleives its new chief executive. It was Mark Millar, 53 – who took charge of Hinchingbrooke on Monday – who laid the gr

HINCHINGBROOKE Hospital will be in the national spotlight as its reforms roll out a model for dozens of other smaller acute hospitals, beleives its new chief executive.

It was Mark Millar, 53 - who took charge of Hinchingbrooke on Monday - who laid the groundwork for the rescue plan that will enable the site to retain virtually all its patient services.

Last summer, the former Essex Strategic Health Authority finance director with 30 years' NHS experience behind him was asked to investigate "a bit of a problem" with Hinchingbrooke's finances, as debts mounted rapidly and threatened to account for half the trust's annual income in the year that ended last week.

But Mr Millar realised it was not an impossible situation, and the hospital could be returned to financial equilibrium.


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"What I found was that, if Hinchingbrooke were paid at full quota rates for the work it was doing, it would be making a profit," he told The Hunts Post.

But there were a couple of problems with that. Because Hinchingbrooke was an efficient outfit, it was paid less under "payment by results" to help inefficient hospitals catch up. And the hospital was, in any case, treating far more patients than the primary care trust could afford to pay for.

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Mr Millar now has two years to implement the reforms that were made possible by his ticks in the financial boxes and to bring the hospital into current account surplus with savings of £14.5million a year.

"My objective is that in two years' time we have a demonstrably sustainable hospital for local people. We don't want to be back here in two or three years' time.

"I want the best quality and the best level of services provided locally, for local people."

The proposals on which Cambridgeshire Primary Care Trust is now consulting was "not an easy option," he said. "But if we all pull together, I think we can do it. I wouldn't have taken the job otherwise. It's something that's worth doing.

"The tipping point for this hospital is our ability to sustain emergency and urgent services. The key with that is out-of-hours surgery. What we won't do is compromise patient safety."

Mr Millar said it was important to get finite proposals formulated as quickly as possible so that doctors, nurses and other employees could see where they fitted into the long-term future of the hospital. "Nothing would undermine our reaching our goals more than key staff leaving. We have got over the initial haemorrhage but, if the process drags on, there's a risk that people will still feel uncertain. We need everyone to buy in to the future."

He promised he would be working with Chris Banks, chief executive of the PCT, which provides most of Hinchingbrooke's funding, with both organisations sharing a common goal of making the rescue plan work.

The eyes of many other hospitals will be on them.

"Huntingdonshire is quite a large area, and there are too many patients for just a cottage hospital. But there are very few compared with the average for a district general hospital.

"This is the same issue as for many other places, so we shall also be in the national spotlight," Mr Millar added.

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