Patients Neglected at Hinchingbrooke Hospital


NHS Trust: Circle to Withdraw

Circle Holdings, which operates Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire, has announced it will be withdrawing from its contract. The company, which became the first private firm to manage an NHS hospital three years ago under the new commissioning rules, said its franchise is “no longer viable under current terms”. Reacting to the announcement, Dr Peter Carter, Chief Executive of the RCN said: “This is deeply worrying news for...patients and further highlights the major financial crisis facing the NHS...When Hinchingbrooke was taken over by a private provider many considered this kind of arrangement to be the way forward for the health service. This announcement shows that private sector involvement is not always the answer.”

Hospital emergency
Circle said that the move comes amid pressure on the Emergency Department but the hospital has also been placed in special measures following a recent Care Quality Commission inspection. The health watchdog announced on Friday 9th January 2015 that it rated Hinchingbrooke "inadequate" revealing a catalogue of serious failings. The CQC was scathing about the hospital which it graded inadequate specifically for ‘patient safety’, ‘displaying caring towards patients’, and ‘leadership’. It is the first time the watchdog has found a hospital trust to be inadequate in how it cares for patients. Patients told inspectors that the response of nurses to them ringing a bell for assistance was poor and drinks were found to have been left out of reach of patients.

Prof Sir Mike Richards, the Commission's Chief Inspector of Hospitals, said: "We have given the trust an overall rating of 'inadequate' and I have made a recommendation the trust is placed into special measures". Professor Richards stated "Our inspection highlighted a number of serious concerns surrounding staffing and risks to patient safety...There were substantial and frequent staff shortages...There were a number of other areas of concern, some of which related to the way in which the trust is led and run." He added the findings "highlight the significant failings at Hinchingbrooke hospital...Where hospitals are failing to promote good care, we will say so regardless of who owns and runs them." Circle took on Hinchingbrooke in early.

The GMB Union said the Circle takeover had been a "disaster waiting to happen when you get the private sector involved in running a hospital". Spokesman Steve Sweeney said: "It's not overly surprising to see them try to pack their bags, cut loose and walk away...”

Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, said: "Patients...will be worried about their hospital...It was the decision of the coalition in November 2011 to appoint Circle and they must take responsibility for this mess. The government were explicitly warned two years ago about the risky business model Circle were operating, but failed to take any action".

Hinchingbrooke’s descent into special measures will mean it will start having its performance monitored to an unprecedented degree by the NHS Trust Development Authority and it may be twinned with a high-performing hospital elsewhere in England from which it will learn how to improve. Almost certainly the process will involve major changes to the hospital’s leadership which was strongly censured by the CQC.

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