Friday, 9 January 2015

The NHS Will Now Have To Pick Up The Pieces, by Louise Irvine

The withdrawal of Circle just 3 years into its controversial 10-year contract to run Hinchingbrooke Hospital is exactly what we warned and predicted would happen and illustrates the folly of private sector involvement in our NHS.

When the going gets tough, the private sector gets going – dumping patients and leaving the NHS to foot the bill and clear up the mess. 

Not only was Circle making a financial mess of running Hinchingbrooke but it was putting patients, including children at risk.

The Care Quality Commission has released an explosive report revealing the hospital is unsafe, uncaring and poorly-led.

It’s no coincidence that privately-run Hinchingbrooke is the first ever hospital to be rated inadequate for caring and placed in special measures.

These damning CQC findings about Hinchingbrooke should sound the death-knell for creeping NHS privatisation.

It’s also revealing to look at the language used by Circle in its earlier announcement about withdrawing from its contract, saying the franchise is “unsustainable”.

This perfectly illustrates the difference between the private sector, which seeks profits, and public NHS trusts which prioritise patient care and don’t walk away from patients when they realise they can’t make money from them.

This shows exactly why the market has no place in healthcare. The privatisation experiment has lamentably failed.

The NHS will now have to pick up the pieces. This contract should not go back out to tender, but should go straight back to the NHS.

Circle says “the playing field has changed”. It’s interesting and somewhat ironic that the reasons cited by Circle are increased pressure on A&E, insufficient funding and lack of beds for patients waiting to be discharged.

Welcome to the world of all NHS hospitals, struggling with these very problems created by the policies of this government.

The successful PR campaign claiming to have “transformed” the hospital masked a continuous failure to meet financial targets — and as a result meant not a penny of profit to Circle.

But Circle can just walk away from this mess as a get-out clause is triggered once it has put in £5 million of its own money, although it still has to pay another £2m to exit the contract.

And behind the PR statements about Hinchingbrooke being a shining example of excellent patient care, the reality is very different.

A recent letter from the CQC following a preliminary inspection listed a whole catalogue of failings, from emotionally abusive patient care to poor medical practice. It also highlighted a blame culture making it hard for staff to raise concerns.

The company refused to meet staff unions, and has been found it hard to recruit or retain sufficient staff — pushing up spending on agency staff.

Circle’s management of ​Hinchingbrooke had been feted by government and media as a shin​ing example of ​how the private sector could improve on the NHS.

But now, it has been shown to be shiny on the outside, yet hollow on the inside.

Dr Louise Irvine is standing for the National Health Action Party against Jeremy Hunt in the general election in South West Surrey​.​

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