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The News Line: News Circle taking £1bn out of NHS!
Part of the BMA march against the Health and Social Care Bill becoming law – the BMA at their Annual Representative Meeting earlier this year called for the resignation of Health Secretary Lansley
THE first private company to run an NHS hospital claims it has cut waiting times, improved care and delivered savings in its first six months.

Circle has run Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire since February.
Regional NHS officials monitoring Circle say the company has made a good start, while warning that improvements at the hospital must be sustainable.


BMA member Anna Athow commented: ‘On the flimsiest of evidence about cutting deficits and improving care, the Chief Executive of Circle, Ali Parsa, is being used as a cheerleader for the takeover of NHS District General Hospitals (DGHs) by private companies.

‘His private company, Circle, was given a £1bn NHS contract to run Hinchingbrooke DGH for the next 10 years.

‘After just six months Ali Parsa, claimed on BBC Radio 4 that quality is improved and Circle is on course to eliminate the £45m deficit per annum, by next year.

‘No facts and figures, no details of patients treated and no long-term results of care are given.

‘There are only three ways to reduce the deficit; cut costs, increase “throughput” by reducing length of stay, and increasing the proportion of private paying patients.

‘Parsa, cites some one-off gains in cutting procurement costs, but the chief outlay in any hospital is staff costs. Already, we hear, that cleaning staff are being reduced.

‘This is early days. At the moment, many staff have opted to stay on NHS terms and conditions and pensions and not join the Circle terms of employment and variable performance related pay and reduced job security.

‘In the current climate of Government moves to impose local pay and tear up national terms and conditions, and even remove TUPE if the Beecroft proposals are accepted, Circle will use all these powers to drive down pay and sack staff.

‘Parsa told Radio 4 that many more DGHs should be brought under private management, and even implied that completely privatised hospitals should be used by the NHS, when he praised private hospital care in Germany.

‘No unions should be welcoming the advent of private management of NHS DGHs. Circle is not a mutual and not co-owned by its doctors and nurses. It is majority owned by private investors.

‘It is about making profits from NHS care. Public-private partnerships, which Parsa is promoting (like PFI), are profits for investors out of taxpayers’ money, reductions in staff and, at the end of the day, NHS patients suffering poorer care.

‘Unions must oppose private takeovers in principle and in practice and mobilise their members to reverse what has been done at Hinchingbrooke and stop its spread anywhere else, through united industrial action.’

Unison assistant general secretary Karen Jennings said: ‘The staff at Hinchingbrooke Hospital have worked enormously hard and for this they should be rightly congratulated.

‘Its important that Hinchingbrooke becomes a good, viable local general hospital that the community want to use, and messages about improvements are vital in achieving this.

‘However, these early clinical successes should not be used by Circle to whitewash persisting financial problems. The hospital’s enormous PFI debt remains, and we’re already seeing the early steps toward job cuts, through voluntary severance schemes and reductions in vital cleaning staff.

‘The steps Circle are taking to engage staff demonstrate irrefutably what we have said all along about the critical importance both of clinical leadership and staff engagement in decision making.

‘Of course these are very early days, and we will be keeping a watching brief on Circle to ensure that this honeymoon period is not in fact a gateway to service cuts and wide scale job losses.’
 
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