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Many commentators are critical of private company Circle Health running Hinchingbrooke hospital. Andrew Lansley and Con-Dem scum claim that they are not privatising the NHS…

Circle admits that care at the Hinchingbrooke is at risk:

“Circle’s growth has placed, and its anticipated growth will continue to place, a strain on its managerial, administrative, operational, financial, information technology and other resources and could affect its ability to provide a consistent level of service to its patients.”

Conservative election poster 2010

A few recent news articles about the UK’s Conservative and Liberal-Democrat (Conservative) coalition government – the ConDem’s – brutal attack on the National Health Service.

Andrew Lansley’s NHS is all about private sector hype | John Lister | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

Circle has little know-how on running a hospital the size of Hinchingbrooke, but that doesn’t seem to bother the government

The government’s decision to sign a 10-year contract worth £1bn for an untested private company to manage the heavily indebted Hinchingbrooke hospital really is the triumph of hype over experience.

The hype has come thick and fast from Circle Healthcare’s smooth-talking boss, former Goldman Sachs banker Ali Parsadoust (known as Ali Parsa), who gives the impression that Circle is some kind of altruistic workers’ co-operative, while in fact it is controlled by private equity and hedge funds. Far from handing control to the workers, Circle takes a negative view of trade unions and will have to resort to old-fashioned cuts in the workforce if it is to generate the “efficiency savings” it needs to put the hospital into surplus.

More hype has come from the architect of the contract, NHS East of England’s director of strategy Dr Stephen Dunn, an enthusiastic advocate of private sector provision (which he denies is privatisation), whose unstinting efforts to secure this deal won him an award this year from HealthInvestor magazine.

But there is little in Circle’s record to justify Dunn’s belief that the company has the expertise to take on a project on the scale of Hinchingbrooke. The company has yet to make a success even of running its two tiny (30-bed) private hospitals, which were extravagantly expensive to build, and has run up six years of losses so far: hardly a good base to take on the bigger challenge of managing of a debt-ridden NHS general hospital 10 times the size and many more times more complex.

Even the NHS workforce that Circle will be attempting to manage at Hinchingbrooke is three times larger than the grand total of 568 people working for the whole Circle group. Only one of the company’s senior managers has any experience of managing an NHS hospital and he has left the company to rejoin the NHS. And so far they have set out no concrete proposals on how they plan to save money and turn around the finances when they take over in February.

The uncertainty over the Hinchingbrooke contract is even greater since Circle will only be paid a share of any surplus the hospital makes. It might not make any. The PCT (and GP commissioners) are trying to cut the numbers of patients treated in hospital, and squeezing down tariffs for treatment as part of the NHS-wide drive to make £20bn of “efficiency savings” by 2014.

But as it takes over Hinchingbrooke, Circle’s own financial situation is worrying. It has already lost two ISTC contracts: and its £34m-a-year ISTC contract in Nottingham, currently the company’s main income stream, has only two more years to run. In the last three years Circle’s losses were £40m, £20m and £35m. Its new showpiece hospital in Bath has only just begun to generate a modest trickle of income.

The Hinchingbrooke contract is a gamble with high stakes, and with only slim chances of success: yet remarkably it’s already being discussed as a model for other struggling trusts. Don’t ask for evidence, just go with the private sector hype. That’s the future under Lansley’s NHS.


NHS privateer: Care is at risk / Britain / Home – Morning Star

The first private company to take over the running of an NHS hospital has admitted that patient care may have to take a back seat to its ambition to buy up more public hospitals.

Circle Health, which has been awarded a £1 billion contract to take over the running of Hinchingbrooke hospital in Cambridgeshire, said in a share prospectus that it plans to take over more NHS hospitals, but patient care may be affected.

“As well as the establishment of further independent hospitals, Circle intends to significantly expand its NHS business,” the company states.

“Circle’s growth has placed, and its anticipated growth will continue to place, a strain on its managerial, administrative, operational, financial, information technology and other resources and could affect its ability to provide a consistent level of service to its patients.”

Campaign group Health Emergency and Unison have already raised concerns as to how Circle, which recorded losses of over £27 million from its own clinics last year, can successfully combat the £39m debt run up at Hinchingbrooke.

The latest revelation indicates that Circle is in agreement with its critics.

Unison head of health Christina McAnea said: “Circle’s takeover of Hinchingbrooke is an accident waiting to happen.

“The company is currently in a vulnerable state and the takeover could lead to a second Southern Cross, putting patients at serious risk.

“Their management band is stuffed full of bankers and managers from private industry, who have no experience of health care.

“Yet this is a company now responsible for the lives of hundreds of thousands of patients.

“The hospital could have been kept running for the benefit of patients, rather than profiteers.

“This must not become a precedent for the NHS, or millions more staff and patients will be put at risk.”

Related: Care may suffer, admits private company taking over NHS hospital | Politics | The Observer

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