A UNION leader has backed surprise victors Circle announced today as the preferred bidders for Hinchingbrooke Hospital.

Tony Durcan of the Royal College of Nursing said though the London-based healthcare partnership had no experience of running a hospital, he believed they were the right ones for the job and would put patient care first.

Mr Durcan formed part of the stakeholder panel which quizzed the respective bidders last month.

He said: “We are very pleased that Circle won the contract. When we were sitting in the stakeholder interview panel, one of the things that really impressed us was their emphasis on patient care and that the patient's journey is at the centre of everything, which is very similar to a number of nursing models.

“From a nursing perspective, we are pleased that Circle have won the contract. We are keen to be working with them from the simple reason it feels like we are on the same page.”

Mr Durcan admitted Circle had a challenging time ahead of them. Rivals international service firm Serco had prepared their bid with Peterborough and Stamford Hospital NHS Trust.

He said: “Serco relied very heavily on Peterborough and Stamford Foundation Trust. Part of their presentation was 'look what we have already achieved and what we are already doing.' So Circle winning is a surprise to some people. It is going to be quite challenging.

“But in all fairness Circle have dealt with public money in health. They have run treatment centres up in the North, and they are very impressive.

“No-one has ever managed a hospital before. It is new to everybody. We do need to work closely to ensure that what we do puts patient care first, but we are delighted that Circle have in fact been given this opportunity to run our local hospital.”