NONE of the three private companies bidding for the management of Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Huntingdon should be allowed to run an NHS hospital, a union has warned. Unison claims private companies delivering NHS healthcare have a history of failing to d

NONE of the three private companies bidding for the management of Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Huntingdon should be allowed to run an NHS hospital, a union has warned.

Unison claims private companies delivering NHS healthcare have a history of failing to deliver the services they have been paid for.

In a report the union goes on to add that there is a huge gulf between running a 50-bed private hospital for non-emergency procedures and running the 310-bed Hinchingbrooke Hospital, which in a year will treat 33,000 people in accident and emergency, 30,000 inpatients and day cases, 127,000 outpatients and deliver 2,500 babies (some 250 needing special care).

The health services union, which is fighting the move to make Hinchingbrooke the first NHS hospital managed by a private company, believes that more than 20 other NHS hospitals could follow suit.

"We are firmly opposed to this policy and any other plans which undermine public sector provision of health care and local access to a range of vital services," the union says.

Three companies are left in the process to run Hinchingbrooke, which has a £40m debt, but each, according to Unison, is unsuitable.

Circle Health, which describes itself as a John Lewis-type partnership, is partly run by large financial institutions, the union says, and has no knowledge of acute services work.

"It's new £30m hospital in Bath has 28 beds, no A&E or facilities for patients with complex medical or surgical needs."

Ramsay Health Care, Australia's largest private healthcare provider, is the fourth largest provider of private hospitals in England.

But Unison claims it has walked away from a 10-year contract (after two years) to use a 25-bed private patient unit at the Princess Royal University Hospital because it was not "proving commercially viable".

Serco, a multi-national employing 40,000 staff with a turnover of over £2billion, has no experience of any kind of hospital management, Unison says.

According to its website, it employs 300 doctors and nurses who provide out of hours care, healthcare in prisons and nursing support. It also runs Docklands Light Railway.

However, the East of England Strategic Health Authority said the "rigorous evaluation process has identified three bidders as capable of operating the franchise".

A statement added: "The organisation that secures the franchise will be required to continue to deliver the full services that are currently being provided and as agreed in the 2007 consultation. The franchise will last for a limited period, the exact length of which is still to be established.

"Patients will continue to receive NHS services.