Clinicians' co-op takes over Hinchingbrooke Hospital

10 Nov 11
Co-operative social enterprise Circle signed a 'groundbreaking' deal last night to become the first private firm to take over the running of all services at an NHS hospital.

By Nick Mann | 10 November 2011

Co-operative social enterprise Circle signed a ‘groundbreaking’ deal last night to become the first private firm to take over the running of all services at an NHS hospital.

The company, which is 49.9% co-owned by the staff who work in its various sites nationwide, has secured a ten-year contract to manage Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Huntingdonshire.

Under the deal, which begins on February 1 next year, Circle will also be responsible for paying off the hospital’s £40m debt. Without the deal, the local NHS trust said the future of the hospital could have been ‘uncertain’.

Circle has also committed to ensuring that the full range of ‘high quality’ acute hospital services – including Accident & Emergency and maternity services – will continue to be provided at the site for as long as the NHS requires them.

Dr Stephen Dunn, NHS Midlands & East policy and strategy director, oversaw the contract procurement. He said: ‘This is a momentous day. Without this partnership, the future for Hinchingbrooke could have been uncertain. Now, we have a solution which aims to repay the hospital’s taxpayer debt of almost £40m, as well as giving it the best chance of a sustainable future.

‘Patients will continue to receive high-quality NHS services from NHS staff in the NHS hospital they know. This is not privatisation. Staff and assets will remain in the NHS.’

The contract involves Hinchingbrooke Healthcare NHS Trust, which previously ran the hospital, continuing to provide both clinical and non-clinical services under the management of Circle. The hospital will continue to provide NHS services.

Services on the Hinchingbrooke hospital site provided by other organisations, such as Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust, through contractual arrangements with NHS Cambridgeshire, are unaffected by the franchise deal.

Circle describes itself as the largest partnership of clinicians in Europe. It has more than 2,000 clinicians who work in its existing hospitals, treatment centres and clinics, acting as co-owners,

Chief executive Ali Parsa hailed NHS Midlands & East’s part in the Hinchingbrooke deal. He said: ‘At a time when some health care commentators say the solution for small district general hospitals is simply to merge or be shut down, we believe NHS Midlands & East’s courage and zeal for innovation will enable us to show how clinician and staff control can provide a more sustainable alternative.

He explained that Circle would seek to bring about improvements at Hinchingbrooke by devolving decision making at the hospital.

‘Our partners have now met hundreds of Hinchingbrooke staff, and we know that we share a core value of prioritising patients above all else,’ he said.

‘Circle arrives not with a top-down plan to impose change, but with a proven methodology of unleashing NHS professionals' talent through clinical leadership and devolved decision-making.’

Circle was previously named as preferred bidder to run Hinchingbrooke in November 2010.


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