Prime Minister urged to unblock Hinchingbrooke franchising

CONSULTANTS and GPs across Huntingdonshire have written to Prime Minister David Cameron demanding that he intervene to sort out the management of Hinchingbrooke Hospital.

Clinicians at the hospital and family doctors whose patients use Hinchingbrooke are fed up with waiting for the Government to tick the final box in the process that will see John Lewis-style partnership Circle take over the running of the hospital.

That should have happened on June 1 and, with the contract still unsigned on a bureaucrat’s desk in the Treasury, the process is already 100 days late.

Circle has promised doctors and nurses at the hospital that they will be empowered to fix whatever they think is standing in the way of improved patient experience at Hinchingbrooke – and the clinicians have told the PM that they cannot wait for the starting gun to be fired.

Circle is reluctant to be drawn into public debate, but insiders at the hospital say consultants are furious that the operating franchise – with preferred bidder status awarded last November after a lengthy competitive process – has been stalled by civil servants who were not involved in the process and know little if anything about healthcare.

As a consortium that will commission much of Hinchingbrooke’s treatment, GPs across the district have told David Cameron that Huntingdonshire patients risk missing out completely in the current financial year on the quality improvements and productivity gains Circle is expected to deliver after it takes over.

Bizarrely, as The Hunts Post reported last week, the unsigned and unimplemented contract, has won a major national award as healthcare ‘deal of the year’.

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What is really frustrating people at the hospital is that, even though it was delivered as an initiative of the previous Government, the Hinchingbrooke deal is seen as one of the best potential example’s of Mr Cameron’s ‘big society’ – with doctors and nurses effectively taking control of the NHS district hospital in which they work.

What seems to have happened is that the Hinchingbrooke decision – we are waiting, according to the Department of Health, for the final business case to be signed off – has become mired in ministers’ wider difficulties with NHS reforms.

Yet the appointment of Circle, with its social enterprise values and the promise of shares in the company to Hinchingbrooke workers, seems completely to have defused opposition to the principle of franchising the hospital’s management.

The company’s managing partner (chief executive) Ali Parsa told The Hunts Post: “A very good process was run by the strategic health authority that included the participation of doctors, nurses, patients and other stakeholders. The result was very clear and has overwhelming support from clinicians and other healthcare professionals.

“The time for delay in Whitehall is surely over. This has local support, and Whitehall should now do the right thing by democracy. We are very keen to make a start on repaying the faith that the doctors, the nurses and the public have placed in us.”