Demo planned over Hinchingbrooke Hospital

There will be a demonstration on July 10 to stop the privatisation of Hinchingbrooke Hospital’s management.

PROTESTERS are planning to take to the streets next month to demonstrate against the planned privatisation of Hinchingbrooke Hospital’s management.

The march and rally are being organised by Huntingdon and St Neots Trades Council with support from unions including Unison, Unite, the NUT, Cambridgeshire Against the Cuts, the National Shop Stewards Network and the National Right to Work Campaign.

The demonstration to set to take place at Riverside Park Huntingdon at noon on Saturday, July 10.

Steve Sweeny, secretary of Huntingdon and St Neots Trades Council, told The Hunts Post: “Privatisation has been a disaster in our national utilities. The privatisation of the railways has seen profit put before safety and service for customers with prices spiralling and quality of service diminishing.

“Our fear is that the companies who are bidding for the hospital have no experience of running hospitals.

“Hinchingbrooke Hospital is being used as a testing ground. This is a fight for the heart and soul of the NHS.”

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Tom Woodcock, from Cambridgeshire Against the Cuts, said: “Offering the running of the hospital to a private company is a disgrace.

“We have a commitment in this country for health provision, publicly owned and run on the basis of need, in the best interest of the patient. When the interests of shareholders are involved, you can never do that.”

Mr Woodcock added: “Mori polls and other studies have shown that 98 per cent of people want the NHS and schools run by the state – this franchise and the proposal for academy schools have been dressed up as anything but privatisation because it is so unpopular.”

The protesters want to stop the process that could see one of three private companies - Serco, Ramsay Health Care and Circle - take control of the hospital in May, 2011.

While all staff and assests would remain with the NHS, the day-to-day running of Huntingdonshire’s hospital, including it’s A&E department, would be the responsibility of the private company.

The NHS has argues that this is the best way to pay off Hinchingbrooke’s �40million debt and allow the hospital to live within its budget.

However, critics of the scheme argue that bizarre NHS accountancy practises were responsible for the majority of the debt and that the hospital, which has been roughly breaking even, is being used a guinea pig.

There have also been concerns - raised regularly by The Hunts Post - that not enough information is being made public about the private companies’ plans for Hinchingbrooke.

The NHS says its hands are tied by the tender process, which protects the information provided by the companies.

However, this newspaper argues that the public will be kept in the dark about plans for the hospital until a deal is signed and it is too late the challenge the decision.

The lack of information is also a concern Huntingdon MP Jonathan Djanogly raised with Hinchingbrooke’s new chief executive, Gerry McSorley, and chairman Sue Smith on Friday (June 11).

He called for the franchising process to be more transparent.

Mr Djanogly said he had concerns about whether any of the companies or the NHS was capable of running the contract, but was concerned about the principle of the franchise process.

Mr Djanogly said privatisation was already all over the state sector and gave the treatment centre at Hinchingbrooke, which is run by the builders, Kier, as an example.

“This is much more of a privatisation than the hospital management,” he said. “It is quite possible that a private company can provide better services at a lower cost and still make a profit - by being more efficient.

“Private companies run rubbish collection and provide a better service which costs less.”

INFORMATION: The march leaves Riverside Park at 1pm returning to the park for a rally. Speakers include St Ives town councillor Jonathan Salt who stood in the general election opposing the privatisation, Martin Booth, from Unison, Dr John Lister of Keep Our NHS Public and Jerry Hicks, candidate for the general secretary of Unite.