PRIVATE firm Circle has made an immediate effect on Hinchingbrooke Hospital by making significant improvements to accident and emergency waiting times.

A performance report to the Cambridgeshire Primary Care Trust committee last Wednesday (March 28) showed Hinchingbrooke missed its January target to see 95 per cent of A&E patients within four hours by nearly five per cent.

But since the private company took over the hospital at the beginning of February it has been the top-performing hospital in Cambridgeshire for the past seven weeks, with 99.6 per cent of patients being seen within four hours in March, and 97.5 per cent in February.

Circle introduced an “escalation process”, which sees a senior manager called to investigate why a patient has waited more than three hours, with managers being called in at short notice at evenings and weekends.

Massoud Fouladi, Circle's medical director, said: “Long waits in A&E cause unnecessary worry for patients, and affect their entire hospital experience, so the team has been working really hard to cut wait times for our patients

“Becoming the top hospital in Cambridgeshire for A&E performance is a testament to the power of partnership, with frontline staff, clinicians and senior management pulling together to put patients' needs and wishes first.”

The report also showed the hospital missed its December target for cancer patients to receive their first treatment within two months of being referred, which was said to be due to complex pathways and patient choice.

According to a Circle spokesman, the hospital had met the target in January, while one patient didn't have treatment within the required 62 days in February. Circle expected to be back on target in March.

She said: “We have done a lot of work already but we're still working every month to reduce the number of patients not receiving treatment within two months.”

In December, Hinchingbrooke was well under the 50 per cent target to scan suspected stroke victims within an hour, at just 17 per cent of patients. The report said the required urgent scanning didn't happen because patients were diverted for thrombolysis checks.

After a NHS review, stroke care was taken away from Hinchingbrooke, with patients now travelling to Addenbrooke's and Peterborough City hospitals.

The committee was told that in the past year one patient in Hinchingbrooke and one in Papworth contracted MRSA while in hospital, and Papworth was meeting its target to treat cancer patients.