Private Company To Pull Out Of Hinchingbrooke Hospital

9 January 2015, 08:14 | Updated: 9 January 2015, 17:26

Private company Circle, are pulling out of running Hinchingbrooke hospital, as the expect bad reviews from Health Watchdog.

A statement from Circle, says:
"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 £23 million 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% higher, year-on-year - and not enough care places for healthy patients who await discharge.
"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 £4.84 million 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 Simon Stevens’ (NHS England Chief Executive) 5-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."

Labour former health secretary Andy Burnham, now Jeremy Hunt's shadow, said: ``Patients who rely on Hinchingbrooke will be worried about their hospital following this announcement and ministers must provide urgent reassurance and set out a plan to ensure the continuity of services at the hospital in this uncertain time.

``It was the decision of the coalition in November 2011 to appoint Circle and they must take responsibility for this mess.

``The Government were explicitly warned two years ago about the risky business model Circle were operating, but failed to take any action.

``Given that these risks were known at the outset, ministers must explain why they judged Circle a safe choice to run this hospital. They must also set out today how long they have known about the problems at Hinchingbrooke.''

Conservative Huntingdon MP Jonathan Djanogly said the decision was ``a shock and a shame'' but complained that unions and other critics of privatisation had used the hospital as a ``political football''.

``Hinchingbrooke is a well-loved local small district hospital. It had 15 years of constant closure threats and then Circle took over and it seemed like we had stability and an excellent management system,'' he told BBC Radio 4's Today.

``They revolutionised staff relations, they empowered staff, they invested in the infrastructure and what was a very average service became, in many ways, excellent.

``So it is a shock and a shame to see this happening.''

He said lessons should be learned for the future but insisted private sector involvement in public services was becoming more important, not less.

``It is important that this be looked at to learn the lessons for the future.

``But my own view is that on one hand you had the NHS insisting at the start of the contract that Circle should take on all the old debts of the hospital, and on the other hand you had Circle, as an ambitious, market-listed company, accepting that this was the first time there was going to be a contract and probably stretching themselves and pushing their margins.

``The combination of those two, added to the very tough situation we have across the whole country, has probably turned things bad.''

He went on: ``There is a huge and long history of private sector involvement in the public sector and, indeed, I don't think you will find any political party saying that that is not going to happen, if not more, in the future.

``We need to recognise that there has been huge political pressure put on Hinchingbrooke. The whole weight of the national trade union movement has been pitched against this hospital, which has basically seen it as the thin end of the wage on privatisation.

``Let's remember: this was a contract issued by a Labour government, it was awarded by a Conservative government, and personally I really dislike seeing our local hospital being used as a political football.

``The management outsourcing concept, to my mind having seen it in practice, has worked for patients.''

Peter Carter, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: ``This is deeply worrying news for staff and patients and further highlights the major financial crisis facing the NHS, and the daily pressure facing staff.

``Hinchingbrooke was one of the first NHS hospitals to be taken over by a private provider and at the time many considered this kind of arrangement to be the way forward for the health service. This announcement shows that private sector involvement is not always the answer.

``This news also highlights just how much pressure is being managed by NHS trusts around the country who are struggling to keep up with patient demand while remaining financially secure.

``Every effort must now be made to support staff to continue providing high quality patient care.''