HINCHINGBROOKE Hospital has posted a £4.1million loss in the first half of the financial year, £2m more than expected.
Circle, which runs the hospital, said it expected to reduce the loss to around £3m by the end of the financial year – £7m less than if the private firm had done nothing to save money.
As part of the franchise agreement, Circle has to pay the losses at the end of each financial year, and a spokesman said that a decision was made early on to invest in fixing the hospital’s problems, including the colorectal unit, which was criticised by the Royal College of Surgeons after a series of deaths.
Circle has also invested in permanent consultants and meeting national targets as well as a new A&E model with a short-stay emergency unit.
The spokesman said: “We took a deliberate decision to fix quality problems before turning to the finances. Big quality issues had to be tackled in our first six months.
“We’re confident that we’re now on track to reach a sustainable break-even position by the end of the next financial year.
“Circle’s approach is always to invest up front to fix structural problems, because short-term slash and burn turnaround is not in our DNA.
“We have a 10-year brief to transform Hinchingbrooke into a high-performing, financially-sustainable local hospital, so for us there are no prizes in unsustainable early wins. Already, great strides have been made, with the hospital now consistently ranking in the top five out of 46 in its region, but you can’t judge the outcome of a marathon after a few miles.”
Cambridgeshire Primary Care Trust is giving Hinchingbrooke a £4.1m advance on payments to help with the hospital’s budgeting.
The hospital has seen a fall in patient satisfaction in the newly launched friends-and-family test. Hinchingbrooke topped the table in May but had slipped into 20th by August. Yet it is expected to rise back to 12th in the September results.
Steve Sweeney, spokesman for the Hands off Hinchingbrooke campaign that was re-launched last Wednesday (October 24), said he was not surprised that Circle had made a loss in its first year, and he worried that Circle might “cut and run” if it could not stop the losses.
“Circle is running the hospital to make a profit, which historically Hinchingbrooke hasn’t been able to do,” he told The Hunts Post. “To do so they have to make efficiency savings. They have cut jobs but they should be investing in staff instead.
“Privatisation has taken Hinchingbrooke into its position of debt with PFIs and in-house markets, and there is no place for it in the running of the hospital.”