STAFF at Huntingdon’s Hinchingbrooke Hospital are more motivated and working harder now than under NHS managers, a senior Government minister told staff during a visit last week.

Since February, the hospital has been run by John Lewis-style partnership Circle whose managers have urged doctors, nurses and others to identify potential improvements and implement them.

Francis Maude, Paymaster General and Cabinet Office Minister, told Hinchingbrooke staff on Friday that he had been inspired by conversations with them in which they had told him of their improved job satisfaction since they had been given their heads.

"He said he felt inspired to hear that we were working harder than we used to because we were able to get stuff done," one told The Hunts Post.

"He said the usual view of private sector management was that the hospital would be run by accountants, not by the frontline staff who look after the patients.

The Cabinet Office said after Mr Maude's visit to A&E and surgical departments that he had presented an award for a pioneering patient safety innovation at Hinchingbrooke.

"Circle is a member of the Government's Mutual Pathfinder programme," a spokesman added. "These pathfinders are trailblazers for the rest of the public sector - helping Government establish, by learning from the front line, what type of support and structures will best enable the development of employee-led mutuals on an ongoing basis.

Mr Maude said: "This Government believes that mutual joint ventures can deliver public services more efficiently and more effectively. When staff are given the power to do their jobs in the way they know best, standards can be improved as there's a collective determination to improve things.

"We are watching with close interest as Circle continue their pioneering transformation of this hospital."

Circle chief executive Ali Parsa added: "Since the takeover, we have transferred power to those closest to patients, and promoted 17 doctors to leadership roles so that clinicians now make up over 80 per cent of the hospital board.

"Our model liberates the doctors and nurses at Hinchingbrooke to deliver the best services for the patients which they know best."