CAMBS: Private firm to take over NHS hospital early next year

A PRIVATE firm will take over the management of Huntingdon’s Hinchingbrooke Hospital from February 1, it was announced last night.

The contract to give Circle Healthcare control of the NHS hospital and its budget was finally signed off by the Government late on Wednesday.

The 10-year contract was expected to have been delivered about a year ago when Circle was chosen as the preferred bidder following a franchise process, but the deal had been stalled by the Treasury.

The contract is the first of its kind within the NHS, giving Circle control of Hinchingbrooke and its services, including the A&E department.

NHS staff contracts will remain with the NHS, although workers at Hinchingbrooke have been promised some of the benefits Circle employees enjoy, such winning free shares in the firm.


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Ali Parsa, Circle’s chief executive:

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“At a time when some healthcare commentators say the solution for small district general hospitals is simply to merge or be shut down, we believe NHS Midlands and East’s courage and zeal for innovation will enable us to show how clinician and staff control can provide a more sustainable alternative.

“Our partners have now met hundreds of Hinchingbrooke staff, and we know that we share a core value of prioritising patients above all else.

“Circle arrives not with a top-down plan to impose change, but with a proven methodology of unleashing NHS professionals’ talent through clinical leadership and devolved decision-making”.

Dr Stephen Dunn, director of policy and strategy at NHS Midlands and East. Dr Stephen Dunn:

“This is a momentous day. Without this partnership, the future for Hinchingbrooke could have been uncertain. Now, we have a solution which aims to repay the hospital’s taxpayer debt of almost �40m, as well as giving it the best chance of a sustainable future. Patients will continue to receive high quality NHS services from NHS staff in the NHS hospital they know. This is not privatisation. Staff and assets will remain in the NHS.”

Dr Dunn continued: “Circle secured this franchise following an open competition. They outshone the best of the best from the NHS and independent sectors. This will usher in a new era for this much loved local hospital.”

Jonathan Djanogly, Huntingdon MP:

“I am delighted with the news. It’s been long coming and there is a degree of relief for local people and the staff who were concerned by the delay. I think this is going to provide the stability for the hospital that local people want to see and provide a higher level of service.

Mr Djanogly said the franchise would also provide an opportunity to make Hinchingbrooke an even more attractive place to work for medical staff in the area and from further afield.

He added: “It could also be a national template for how health provision can be improved.”

Shailesh Vara, North West Cambridgeshire MP:

“We have come a long way from the time when Hinchingbrooke’s very existence was in doubt. The signing of the contract provides long-awaited certainty and while Circle will provide the management, I hope people will remember that staff will be employed by the NHS and the hospital’s assets will remain with the NHS. This is not a privatisation.”

Nigel Beverley, interim chief executive for Hinchingbrooke Health Care NHS Trust:

“We have been encouraged by Circle’s enthusiasm, and the efforts they have taken to meet with staff, patients and our other partners. Circle recognises our achievements at the Trust and we look forward to working with them to develop the hospital’s services into the future.”

Rehana Azam, GMB national officer:

“GMB is watching this closely from the treatment of GMB members and their patients at the trust to the financial engineering that the health and care sectors readily use to syphon money away to tax havens from its intend caring purpose. I have commissioned our researchers, who predicted the demise of Southern Cross due to the excesses of the landlords, to do a full investigation and to follow the money.

“The Hinchingbrooke take over is no different to hedge funds coming into the sector to asset strip and it is the patients and staff that will suffer. To think a private company will have the welfare of patients and staff at the heart of its motive is just untrue. Private providers are there to make profit and this is just the start of what will happen to the NHS as the Health Bill becomes a reality. Circle has masked this takeover under the heading of social enterprising, it will only be a matter of time before profit will be put before patients or those who have the cash to pay take priority.”

Jonathan Salt, who stood on a Hinchingbrooke Hospital ticket at the 2010 General Election:

“We wish Circle well, but we need to watch the situation closely. If they have got to service the hospital’s debt, which is part of the deal, it would be perfect for the commissioners if they stopped commissioning maternity and accident and emergency services.

“I hope that Circle’s finances hold up to it.”

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