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The News Line: News HINCHINBROOKE JOBS FREEZE! – Circle-run hospital deep in debt
Demonstrators make clear their opposition to NHS privatisation on a march organised by the BMA earlier this year
THE privately-run Hinchinbrooke Healthcare Trust in Cambridgeshire has imposed a jobs freeze after making a £2.3m loss in the three months to the end of June.

It is not the success story that the coalition would like people to believe.

Staff now fear they face mass sackings after the Health Service Journal warned the trust may also need a cash injection later this financial year if it cannot deliver on cost improvement plans.

The first NHS trust to be franchised to a private operator, Circle, is already imposing strict controls on vacancies and non-pay expenditure as it tries to slash costs by £9.9m this year.

A finance report to its board has revealed that it now only expects to deliver £6.5m of the savings originally targeted and has identified an additional £3.4m of new cuts to fill the gap.

All recruitment is now expected to be cut.

The trust finished the quarter with a deficit £0.65m greater than planned and warned that its cash balance could fall to under £1m by the end of September.

It has warned that any further slippage could mean it ‘may need to consider what access it has to loans and other cash injections to bridge the period’.

Overall, the report reveals the trust is struggling with overspends, including the cost of locum consultants, ‘subject matter experts’ and procurement expertise.

Far from being a success story, the trust is 26 per cent behind target on referrals and admissions from outside Cambridgeshire.

Its income from A&E is also being restricted by the number of patients it is seeing.

As it goes above the agreed cap, the trust is only being paid 30 per cent of tariff.

Circle’s ‘final solution’ will be the most savage cuts yet seen in the NHS.

Meanwhile, England’s ten most prestigious teaching and research hospital trusts, called the Shelford Group, have asked the Department of Health (DoH) and the Treasury for a ten per cent top-up to their tariff payments.

The Group asked the Treasury and the DoH for an extra £700m this financial year, a Freedom of Information Act request reveals.

The ten trusts have a combined income of £7.3bn a year but say this does not properly cover their costs because tariffs are set at the average price for a procedure, and their caseload is more complex.

The news comes after two of the ten, Imperial College Healthcare Trust and Cambridge University Hospitals Foundation Trust, ended 2011-12 in deficit.

The Shelford Group trusts are: University College London Hospitals Foundation Trust, University Hospitals Birmingham Foundation Trust, Cambridge University Hospitals Foundation Trust, Central Manchester University Hospitals Foundation Trust, Guy’s and St Thomas’ Foundation Trust, Imperial College Healthcare Trust, Oxford University Hospitals Trust, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust, Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals Foundation Trust and King’s College Hospital Foundation Trust.

At a meeting with the Treasury in November the Shelford Group asked for the ten per cent increase as a ‘short term’ solution and a ‘full review of (the) funding system to bring it into line with international best practice’ in the longer term.
 
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