CIRCLE bosses have denied speculation that there are plans to re-open Hinchingbrooke Hospital’s recently closed mental health ward as a private wing.

Rumours have been circulating that private management firm Circle, which took over the running of the hospital at the beginning of this month, are looking to turn Acer Ward, which is currently rented to Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, into a wing for private patients.

The 18-bed ward was temporarily closed in September after clinicians said a shortage of staff meant it was unsafe for patients. Plans to close the ward permanently and move its beds to the Cavell Centre in Peterborough, are due to come before the trust's committee on March 28 for approval.

If approved, the trust could give up their tenancy - they need to give six months notice as part of an ongoing service level agreement - and the ward would pass back into Hinchingbrooke Health Care NHS Trust hands.

But a Circle spokesman said the future of the ward, should the tenancy not be renewed, had not been discussed.

She said: "There are no plans to turn Acer Ward into a private wing. I know there is strong feeling and anxiety around Acer Ward. We would need to talk to patients, with the PCT and doctors about its future."