HINCHINGBROOKE: Circle chief executive Steve Melton’s full statement as private firm pulls out of hospital

Steve Melton, Chief Executive Circle Healthcare Ltd

Steve Melton, Chief Executive Circle Healthcare Ltd - Credit: Archant

Steve Melton, Chief executive of Circle, released this statement on withdrawing from Hinchingbrooke Hospital today (Friday).

After considerable thought and with great regret we have concluded that Circle’s involvement in Hinchingbrooke does not have a sustainable future in its existing form, and have entered into discussions with the Trust Development Authority with a view to withdrawing from the current contract.

Patients are the absolute priority here - and before explaining the reasons for our decision, we would like to reassure them and staff the hospital remains open and continues to provide excellent care.

Can I start by thanking the staff for their professionalism and dedication.

Since we took on Hinchingbrooke in early 2012, the hospital has been transformed. Hinchingbrooke faced closure. It was described as a ‘basket case’. We invested in the quality of care, in staff and in facilities. Now, it has won a number of awards. We consistently hit the most important outcome measures, including low mortality rates, excellent patient feedback, and meet all major waiting time targets. In the first two years of the franchise, we made financial savings significantly above the NHS average. We have saved the taxpayer around £23million in total.

However, since the contract was put out to procurement in 2009, the playing field has changed.

First, like most hospitals, over the past year we have seen unprecedented A&E attendances – at times up to 30 per cent higher, year-on-year – and not enough care places for healthy patients who await discharge.

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Second, at the same time, our funding has been cut by approximately 10.1% this year.

With these pressures on the system, to maintain the standards our patients deserve requires significant further investment, on top of the £4.84million and considerable resources Circle have invested in the hospital to date.

We believe that solving the problems facing Hinchingbrooke can only be achieved through joined-up reform in Cambridgeshire across hospitals, GPs and community services. We fully support the vision of NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens’s five-year Forward View, but these potentially exciting reforms are too far into the future.

Finally, we were one of the first hospitals to be inspected under the CQC’s new process. We understand their report will be published soon, and fully expect it to be unbalanced and to disagree with many of its conclusions. We recognise the importance of a regulator focussed on quality, but we are not the only hospital to find their process problematic. We believe that inconsistent and conflicting regulatory regimes compound the challenges for acute hospitals in the current environment.

The combination of these factors means we have now reluctantly concluded that in its existing form, Circle’s involvement in Hinchingbrooke is unsustainable. We have entered into discussions with the Trust Development Authority with a view to withdrawing from the current contract, but if reform in the region develops fast and a new role for us becomes clear, we are happy to play our full part.

The patients of Huntingdon are our absolute priority in these talks.

I would like to pay tribute to the amazing work of our staff. I will be speaking personally to them over coming days and weeks. I’ve been humbled by the compassion, dedication and professionalism of doctors, nurses and managers. The hospital’s remarkable improvement over the past two years is a credit to them.