Hinchingbrooke hospital 'turned around by Circle in six months'
Waiting times at Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire have been cut, care is improving and managers have also succeeded in making savings, according to firm Circle. Regional NHS officials have welcomed improvements but said improvements at Hinchingbrooke - once described as “a clinical and financial basket case” by health minister Earl Howe - must be sustained.
Circle took over running of the hospital in February, after winning a 10-year contract to do so. Unions fear the move heralds the wholesale privatisation of the NHS, and Unison said morale among Hinchingbrooke staff was now falling. But Ali Parsa, chief executive of Circle, told the BBC that central to their success so far was giving doctors and nurses a far greater role in managing the hospital.
He said: “We believe our partners - doctors, nurses, healthcare professionals - should run their own hospitals.” Mr Parsa said he wanted to see the model of private firms running NHS hospitals rolled out across the country. "Look at Germany, where private companies run more hospitals than government does and satisfaction with their health service is significantly higher than here,” he said. "I think we need to take private / public, the ideology, out of the health service and let the NHS provide free at the point of delivery care."
His words will be warmly welcomed by Conservative ministers, who believe competition from private providers will cut costs and raise standards across the health service. But they are bound to raise the heckles of many who believe the NHS should remain a state run service, and that to involve more and more private providers will reduce it to little more than a brand.
Karen Jennings, assistant general secretary of Unison, said: “Well done to Hinchingbrooke - and that includes Circle and all the staff - for where they've got to now. “But I have to say that staff are a little bit nervous. There are talks about voluntary severance, and there is a large cut in the number of cleaning staff.”
Mr Parsa said they had made savings by cutting back on cleaning of office and residential areas - where some staff live - but that cleaning of clinical areas had been increased. managers had also saved £1.6 million by changing the way it ordered paper supplies, he said.
Patients appear happy with the hospital under new management. In May, it came joint top in a survey of patients at 46 hospitals across England. Nine out of 10 said they would recommend Hinchingbrooke to friends and family.