The British Medical Association (BMA) yesterday condemned moves to allow a private company to take over the running of Hinchingbrooke NHS hospital in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire.
A BMA spokesperson said: ‘This is yet another example of the continuing drive for competition, private provision, and commercialisation, which remains a major threat to our NHS.
‘Doctors are tired of seeing money diverted away from patient care into the profits of private companies and the bureaucratic costs of the market. They share the frustration of their patients with the increasing fragmentation of their care. We’d encourage everyone to join us in our call for a publicly funded, publicly provided NHS, based on co-operation and not competition.’
NHS East of England announced on Wednesday: ‘The first stage of an open competitive process to find a new partner for Hinchingbrooke Health Care NHS Trust is due to be formally launched at the beginning of October 2009.
‘NHS East of England, together with the Trust, will be inviting expressions of interest from NHS and independent sector organisations in bidding for a “franchise” to run Hinchingbrooke Hospital from April 2011.’
Andrew MacPherson, Director of Strategic Projects at NHS East of England said he hoped private firms,charities and in-house NHS teams would put forward bids to run the hospital. He added that it was hoped that the winning organisation would find a way to deal with Hinchingbrooke Hospital’s historic £40m debt to the NHS.
‘We are opposed to the plan,’ Unison regional organiser Phil Green told News Line yesterday. He continued: ‘We will be participating in the local campaign to keep Hinchingbrooke in the NHS. The NHS should write off the historic debt and allow the present management team in the NHS to get on with the job.
‘The only way the private sector can make money is either by overcharging or providing a lesser service. Why should a private company profit at the expense of patients.’
The NHS East of England statement said: ‘Before the process starts in earnest, an independently-chaired Stakeholder Panel is being set up to represent the interests of local people and Hinchingbrooke Hospital staff at every stage.’
It added: ‘A preliminary business meeting of the Stakeholder Panel will take place on 2nd September 2009 from 2pm until 5pm at the Assembly Rooms at Hinchingbrooke House in Huntingdon. This meeting is to confirm membership of the Panel and to deal with business relating to the future operating of the Panel.’
‘Until the Save Hinchingbrooke Campaign is on the Panel, local people will not be represented,’ Save Hinchingbrooke Hospital campaigners insisted. Health Secretary Andy Burnham, says a Tory MEP, “is unpatriotic” – so is franchising as it is the US system by the back door’, they added.