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 143.

    "Circle aims to find a solution to the debt problems of the hospital by attracting new patients." what? where? when? how? why?

    will the ambulance chase? bribe the paramedics? take out lynch mobs on people?

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    If private health care is profitable in the UK . . why are these companies not building their own hospitals ?

    Do the US government build hospitals for US health companies ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    I once worked for a privatised government agency (ADAS).
    From day 1 we were told we had to work hard to pay off the business debt (which was the purchase price of the organisation).
    Like mugs we all slaved and when it was paid, parts of the business were sold off one by one. The venture capitalists made a killing and left a broken and ruined mess behind. I think its more of the same here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    I cant wait to hear the justification of the CEO of circle health-care awarding himself a million pound bonus for treating private patients before NHS patients which is essentially how they will make money in this hospital,by treating private patients using the NHS equipment and staff and of course the intensive care beds which there are non in the private system.

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    Good. If I ever require treatment there I won't be paying.

    I will send the bill to the conservative party. . and there is nothing they can do to make me pay it.

    Failing that, I will see them in the European court.

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    Its the start of the end.
    The NHS has a responsibility to treat patients.
    A private firm has a responsibility to its shareholders to make as much money as it can.
    Just look at how things turned out with RailTrack (expensive trains), British Gas (expensive energy), BT (expensive and not allowed broadband without phone), the Post Office (half now closed and increasing postage costs). Bonkers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    No society can legitimately call itself civilised if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means.

    — Aneurin Bevan.

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    I love the NHS and I have worked within for several years. But there are a growing number of people now working within the NHS who are racially abusive towards colleagues and who are downright rude to patients to their faces or behind their backs. These people give patients the impression they're getting a 'free service' when in fact the NHS is not free at all, it is free at the point of access.

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    If that was my local hospital i'd be really scared of going there, with my health no longer being the number one concern but rather money and profit, i'd be incredibly concerned and worried.

    The beginning of the end of our NHS i fear, 60 years of noble altruism coming to an end, how very sad.

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    Very disturbing. An off-shore 'health-care' company taking over an NHS hospital with more NHS funds backing than the current Trust receives.

    If Circle were so confident, perhaps they should just have just bought Hinchingbrooke hospital with their own capital and invoiced NHS?

    As it is, the tax-payer will pay twice - once via taxation and again via supporting a private company with no means.

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

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

    It has a private suite within the trust

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    I attended Hinchingbrooke several times in 2010. I could not fault the front-line staff there for their attentiveness, but what bothered me was the number of people wandering here and there with clipboards. I assume they are administrators, and have an important role to play, without which the hospital could not function effectively, but I'm equally certain that efficiency could be improved.

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    What we have here is a hospital being run by its employee's rather than its managers. . . .

    Now, would the banks give a loan if they choose to run it as a co-operative?

    Greedy banks like the disgraced Frank Goodwin will be rubbing their hands in delight at the precedent set here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    Truly disgusting news. I didn't realise that the Tories were so interested in making money for their mates that they would begin to tear apart a such a bastion of our nation.

    Better start saving now so we can manage to scrape by once healthcare costs become obscene as soon as full privatisation is achieved.

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    F&M clean up in Holland, direct labour: £600 per farm.

    Same in UK, private contractors: £100,000 per farm.

    Expect more of the same here.

    Just a faster way of getting your NI contributions straight into the pockets of the rich, leaving less for medicines and clinicians' wages.

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    So now the corporate saviour has arrived to repay the debt, don't we immediately have a conflict? Is the deal going to be profit-free until the debt is repaid or do they only pay the first £5m back? What is the split of surplus money, from the first £1m in surplus what is the percent paid to Circle profits and what is the percent paid off the debt? Nobody has said how the money will be found.

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    Best ways to improve NHS
    4. Bring in house cleaning rather than using private companies
    5. Bring in house maintenance, not using private companies

    I think you will find that we did have in-house cleaning and maintenance in the NHS before it was "outsourced/privatised" by the last Tory govt. It seems they are now doing it again, but one hospital at a time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    The NHS is an amazing organisation, but at the same time it is potentially a bottomless money pit as treatment gets more expensive and people expect more. People may expect more, but at the same time they aren't prepared to pay more tax to fund it. If you want the services then you have to pay the taxes - you can't have it both ways.

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    doesn't have much of a chance does it , already people are saying its got to fail etc etc.

    how about trying to make it work, put your political bullshine behind you and try to make it work, then we will know , too many vested interests in it failing imo

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    "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"

    If the government is prepared to give Circle £1bn to run this hospital for the next 10 years, why can't they have given this money to the NHS to pay off its debt and run this hospital for the next 10 years. Privatisation thats what it is!


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