Private firm starts running NHS Hinchingbrooke Hospital


Circle says it can turn Hinchingbrooke Hospital around cutting bureaucracy and improving efficiency

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A private firm has become the first to start running an NHS hospital.

Circle, which is co-owned by doctors, has taken on managing Hinchingbrooke Hospital, Cambridgeshire, which had been threatened with closure as it grappled with £40m of debt.

Circle aims to find a solution to the debt problems of the hospital by attracting new patients.

Union Unison said although the hospital had been saved, it was concerned at involving private firms in the NHS.

The groundbreaking £1bn, 10-year deal will see Circle assume the financial risks of making the hospital more efficient and paying off its £40m of debts.

Circle said it wanted to work with the hospital's staff to improve the safety of its services, and to minimise the number of times patients have to travel to the hospital for different appointments.

Specific timelines are being set for improvements in areas, such as the amount of time nurses spend with patients.

Changes will be led by units - each consisting of a doctor, nurse and administrator.


Circle believes it can make an immediate difference to patients at Hinchingbrooke Hospital. But in the longer term the more profound effect could be felt across the entire health service.

The situation the Cambridgeshire unit found itself in - with high levels of debt - is far from unique. There are another 20 or so NHS trusts in similar situations. In the future, that number could grow even more.

How to keep these hospitals viable is one of the key questions for the NHS in the 21st Century. Many have argued they need to close, but not everyone shares that doomsday view.

Some NHS trusts are looking at mergers with larger hospitals, while others are seeking to develop their portfolio of specialities to attract more patients. But if the involvement of the private sector can make a difference, interest in such arrangements will grow.

The NHS in the East of England said the takeover was saving a small hospital from having to cut services or close altogether.

Circle chief executive Ali Parsa said: "Today an ambitious programme will be unveiled to turn a hospital, once labelled as 'a basket case', into one of the top 10 in the country.

"Like John Lewis, Circle are employee co-owned, and have a track record of creating best-in-class hospitals by devolving power to the clinicians and staff who are closest to patients. We are confident that we can do it again in Hinchingbrooke."

Dr Stephen Dunn, director of policy and strategy at NHS Midlands and East, said: "I think this is a historic day for the NHS."

Hinchingbrooke Hospital Hinchingbrooke serves a population of about 160,000 people

He said Circle had put forward a "rigorous plan of improvement" to patient care and food quality.

Dr Dunn said this scheme was vital to the survival of Hinchingbrooke.

"Without this process we might have had to close the hospital or cut services," he said.

Phil Gooden, regional organiser for Unison in the East, said that although he welcomed the survival of the hospital he was concerned at private involvement in the NHS.

He said Hinchingbrooke, which had no private beds, may start bringing them in at the expense of NHS beds.

Dr Dunn said there were no plans to start having private beds, although it could not be ruled out.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    Ken Clark can blow £45m on "consultants" but they can't bail out a NHS hospital?
    Of course its going to work though, Conservatives love privatisation !
    P.S. Are Doctors Good Company Managers?

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    115.Balloon Rake
    Nursing should be a voluntary profession, it's disgusting asking for money for treating someone with an illness

    That is the most disgraceful comment I have seen on here. Nursing is a profession along with Accountants, Bankers, Doctors etc, and as such they should be remunerated accordingly. Whether in the private or public sector Nurses are very valuable members of society.

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    Best ways to improve NHS

    1. Stop Government Interference
    2. Decrease management, increase Nurses
    3. Stop NHS Tourism - all non UK users pay up front for use
    4. Bring in house cleaning rather than using private companies
    5. Bring in house maintenance, not using private companies

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    Bye bye NHS

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    Isn’t it "amassing" how everyone has an opinion and does not know a bean about a subject...

    Did you not mean to say "amazing" in your comment, surely as a manager you should know the difference. I think you will find that most people on here know a lot more about the NHS than you give them credit for. I once had an operation in a Private Hospital that had to be put right by the NHS.

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    And as an encore it is proposed that 80% of the NHS funding is steered into the private sector because that is what GPs are, private businessmen.
    I could be wrong about this BUT wasn't it the private sector that bravely led us to where we are now and needed the much maligned public sector to save the economy !

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    @balloon Rake - you are well named as you really are a balloon! You say that but imagine it was your partner who you have encouraged not to drink or smoke. It's not your fault they got sick, yes it is self-inflicted to themselves, but it is not self-inflicted by the relatives who are left to look after them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    Hinchingbrooke has been my local hospital all my life.
    The medical staff and facilities are amazing but the treatment centre came at a cost the Trust could not afford.
    Many private companies have considered acquiring the treatment centre as a private facility and I can't help feeling that this is the true long term strategy of Circle and that patients will ultimately suffer. I hope I'm wrong...

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    Nursing should be a voluntary profession, it's disgusting asking for money for treating someone with an illness

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    Everywhere that private companies have been brought in to deliver services, the cost goes up and the quality goes down. Water, trains, cleaning in hospitals, waste disposal, the list is endless. This hospital is the shape of things to come for the NHS. Once privatisation of the NHS reaches tipping point, there will be no going back. Our NHS destroyed, and for what, greed and ideology, that`s what

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    The private sector provides very poor services – take railways, power companies, supermarkets, banks, builders, lawyers, accountants, etc, etc. To me they provide expensive services and poor quality. And they don’t go bust - they just stick around like bad smells. If you go to a competitor, they are equally as bad and in some cases worse.

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    This will benifit the no win no fee companys when things go wrong? in the future the N.H.S. will be about how much will that cost ?and who will pay?just like America system.This is the start of the end of The free? ? N.H.S. in the U.K. we pay for this services as taxpayers so we will pay twice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    Listen I know all to well that NHS has its faults, but come on do you really want a US style system, crikey afore you even get in the ambulance they do a credit rate check on you! What's going on here can be duplicated across many similar facilities! STOP them NOW, this CON/DEM will ruin the NHS!

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    Mark my words, this is the first step to privatisation and the ruination of the NHS as we know it. I know from personal experience that private healthcare is not always best.

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    If people with self inflicated illnesses caused by smoking, drinking and drug abuse didn't skip the hospital queues then there would be no need for private firms running our hospitals, if I had a geniune illness I would have to wait months if not years for treatment because someone with a self inflicated illness gets treated first, they should not be treated at all!

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    Instead of the pretty picture of a new building the BBC should have put up a picture of a typical commuter train:
    The common folk crammed into the "standard" class while the rich business folks sprawl getting served tea and cakes in their "first" class sections.

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    I don't approve of privatisation of the NHS. However, it has become something it was never intended to be - modern diagnostic and treatment options are beyond its capacity now. Work it out - if any government had an alternative source of funding for the NHS, then nobody (yes, not a single person) would have to pay basic rate income tax. That is how much the NHS costs in 'real' terms

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    Things to think about:

    “The NHS will be shown no mercy and the best time to take advantage of this will be in the next couple of years.”

    Mark Britnall senior health adviser to PM speaking to private providers

    "They did not believe they could win an election if they told you what they were going to do"
    Michael Portillo about the NHS on This Week

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    Privatisation, as great as it sounds in theory, never seems to work in practice......prices go up, service levels go down, fat cats get even fatter & we get even skinnier.....

    Gas, electricity, water, bin collection, building socities.....the hall of privatisation shame is a very long hall indeed........

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    Cuts out freeloaders - would help UK?

    They WANT the NHS to fail, so it can be privatised, like Education.

    The Tories want us to be a mini-USA


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