MP defends Hinchingbrooke Hospital franchise

HUNTINGDON’S MP has criticised members of a Parliamentary committee for suggesting that Hinchingbrooke Hospital could have been closed and its services transferred to Peterborough or Addenbrooke’s.

Jonathan Djanogly said he had particular concern over one suggestion that patients could catch the guided bus into Cambridge or drive to Peterborough if they needed to attend an appointment.

As reported by The Hunts Post last week, the Public Accounts Committee was looking into the franchise deal given to Circle Health to run Hinchingbrooke, as well as the bankrupt, newly-built Peterborough City Hospital.

Committee chairman Margaret Hodge said it was “clear that it wasn’t the best decision” to enter into the Hinchingbrooke franchise while building the new �289million facility in Peterborough because “there isn’t money to sustain the hospitals”.

Some MPs suggested that more consideration should have been given to closing Hinchingbrooke and asking people to go to Cambridge or Peterborough instead.

“I bet in five years’ time someone will be sitting in this chair and Hinchingbrooke will have failed,” she added.

Mr Djanogly asked: “What justification has she got for saying that? She is just assuming the franchise will fail. Circle has entered into a 10-year contract. You can’t shout at them six months in, you’ve got to let them run the contract and let them prove or disprove it.”

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Mr Djanogly also thought the questioning of Ali Parsa, the former Circle chief executive who stood down this month with a �400,000 payoff, was “way over the top and abrasive”.

“They were talking as though the contract was with him rather than with Circle,” he said. “They went off on totally the wrong track.

“To hear Margaret Hodge saying that people could just go to Peterborough by car and then hear someone else say that they could go on the guided bus to Cambridge rather missed the point of having a much respected local hospital.”

It was Conservative MP for North East Cambridgeshire Stephen Barclay who wants Huntingdonshire patients to travel by bus to Addenbrooke’s.

In any case, the suggestion might not have worked in practice because Addenbrooke’s would have been likely to have its own problems with capacity, Mr Djanogly added.

“If it hadn’t been for Circle, we would be talking about closing the hospital again. Six years ago I led a campaign to save Hinchingbrooke. I don’t want to see it close.”

The committee also scrutinised Circle’s ability to deliver on its financial promises over its decade-long contract.

It accumulated a deficit of �4.1m which has now been reduced to �2.6m – Circle had predicted it would be �1.9m.

However Mr Djanogly said: “The reason they haven’t made as many savings now is that they decided to invest in the hospital early.”