THE paperwork for Circle’s takeover of the management of Hinchingbrooke Hospital remains unsigned on beleaguered Health Secretary Andrew Lansley’s desk yet, as The Hunts Post reported last week, it was awarded a prize for the ‘Health Deal of the Year’.
Quite apart from the obscene description of the franchising as a 'deal', the question should be asked 'Deal of the Year for whom?' Certainly not for the staff, patients and community, who have seen the farce surrounding Hinchingbrooke Hospital drag on for several years now amid controversy and secrecy.
To date no figures have been given for the cost of the bidding process and the consultations, let alone the stream of interim chief executives.
Throughout the process, the Hands Off Hinchingbrooke campaign warned that the hospital was being used as a testing ground for the fragmentation and privatisation of the NHS. Sadly this prediction has been shown to be true with the coalition's Health and Social Care Bill representing a serious threat to the future of the NHS as we know it. Mass opposition from GPs, nurses, patients and others led Lansley to pause and think again, yet the plans are likely to return in a slightly watered down form.
Will the 'deal' still go ahead? There are serious concerns over the finances of Circle. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) reported "for the year ending December 31, 2009, that the group made a pre-tax loss of £28.3million on an income £63m".
More than half of Circle's shares are owned by City investors, sharing in the profits of the business and, as the BIJ claims, these profits are channelled through tax havens.
The 'Deal of the Year' is yet to be signed. What happened at Southern Cross should be a warning that Lansley and health chiefs take heed of. It is not too late to end this débâcle and for Hinchingbrooke to remain a publicly-owned, publicly-run and publicly-funded NHS hospital.
Secretary, Huntingdon and St Neots Trades Union Council