Andrew Lansley in BBC Ding Dong Over Circle Deal

08: 18 Wednesday 1st February 2012
Peterborough Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: NHS history has been made in Cambridgeshire today. Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Huntingdon has become the first in the country to be run by a private company. Circle are working in partnership with the hospital NHS Trust to provide services, manage staff and repay some of the £40 million debt. Circle are announcing 16 new initiatives this morning proposed by hospital staff to improve patient care, safety and efficiency, they say. Well earlier we spoke to Phil Gooden from Unison, who described the move as a disaster for the NHS, and called for more details to be released. (TAPE)
PHIL GOODEN: On the surface you can’t argue with it. Greater patient experience, greater staff engagement, free telephone service, all this sort of stuff, but what it’s not doing is proposing in any detail how the £40 million is going to be recovered. (LIVE)
PAUL STAINTON: Well let’s speak to the man in charge of our health service, Cambridgeshire MP and Health Secretary Andrew Lansley. Morning.
ANDREW LANSLEY: Good morning.
PAUL STAINTON: Well how? How are they going to repay this £40 million Andrew, first of all?
ANDREW LANSLEY: Well in the first instance of course, this is a matter now for Circle, as the team coming and joining with the staff at Hinchingbrooke in order to improve services at Hinchingbrooke, and do so without deficit financing, and dealing with the deficit over time. That’s their responsibility.
PAUL STAINTON: Have they told you how they’re going to do it?
ANDREW LANSLEY: Well they haven’t told me. They’ll have told the NHS about some of their plans, but actually it’s down to them through the contract. And from their point of view, what they’re looking to do of course is to improve services, reduce cost, improve effectiveness, and actually they will do what anybody in any of the best performing organisations does, is to make sure that they deliver the best possible service to their patients. And that of course tends also to be the most cost effective as well. Things like minimising harm to patients, reducing the number of events that shouldn’t happen, improving the quality so that patients in Huntingdonshire have Hinchingbrooke as their hospital of choice. These are things which directly will make an impact on the overall finances of Hinchingbrooke.
PAUL STAINTON: And when you’re trying to save £40 million, you need to make an impact, so there have got to be cutbacks. Phil Gooden from Unison suggested that this could be a Southern Cross moment for the NHS.
ANDREW LANSLEY: Well I think that’s nonsense. It’s absolutely clear that the services for patients will be maintained at Hinchingbrooke, and the commissioners for services for the NHS, patients and their GPs and others, will continue to have all the services at Hinchingbrooke as long as they commission them. What we’re looking for, and Circle and the team at Hinchingbrooke are now aiming to provide, is improvements in quality, and improvements in effectiveness and cost-effectiveness.
PAUL STAINTON: A lot of people are very worried though Andrew, that this is just the thin end. This is just …
ANDREW LANDLEY: You know perfectly well, and anybody who works in any organisation knows perfectly well, that delivering the best quality services does not necessarily mean you have to do it at the highest possible price. What goes with high quality service is often something that is also very cost effective, and that’s what they’re setting out to do.
PAUL STAINTON: Do you feel a bit lonely at the moment Andrew? You’re almost on your own here, aren’t you, with what you want to do with the NHS? Hundreds of doctors have written to the Daily Telegraph today, warning the Health and Social Care Bill will derail and fragment the NHS. You’ve got Unison saying this is the thin end of the wedge, privatisation for the NHS. Do you feel lonely?
ANDREW LANSLEY: If you live in a world occupied simply by the voices of the trade unions you might think that. I live in a world which is occupied by people across the NHS ..
PAUL STAINTON: Doctors who have written to the Daily Telegraph.
PAUL STAINTON: Well I’ll answer your point, if you give me two seconds to do so. There are clinical commissioning groups who also wrote to the Daily Telegraph just a few days ago representing GPs, doctors and nurses, health professionals across the country, who are .. they’re taking this responsibility now for delivering clinical leadership and improving services in their area. That’s why I don’t feel lonely, as you rather abusingly describe it. I feel perfectly happy because what is happening across the NHS is that I am empowering patients with more information and choice, and control over their care, and doctors and nurses and health professionals with the ability to shape the services that they think are in the best interests of patients.
PAUL STAINTON: Your Bill’s dead though, isn’t it Andrew. Nobody’s with you on this are they?
ANDREW LANSLEY: Well of course it’s not. That’s nonsense. I mean you must live in a world created by the BBC.
PAUL STAINTON: No. I am just reading everything I read.
ANDREW LANSLEY: Well you should get out more. But in the Lords they are .. they have approved the Bill following its passage from the Commons. They gave it approval in principle. They are amending it in detail. But the principles of the Bill are supported across the NHS. The NHS Future Forum, hundreds of meetings, thousands of staff, gave us a lot of feedback on the proposals in the plans. We made amendments in line with their recommendations. They said the NHS .. across the NHS the staff support the principles of what we’re setting out to do. They just now want to get on with it.
PAUL STAINTON: The doctors and nurses are not with you though, are they? They say what you’re doing is costing more money. It’s actually making the NHS worse.
ANDREW LANSLEY: I’m sorry, you’re still living in a world which is populated by misrepresentations from some trade union. That’s not true. It doesn’t cost more. It saves .. part of it essential is to save money. In total it will be one and a half billion a year, at the end of this parliament, being saved by reducing the cost of administration. It’s putting those resources and many more into the hands of front line staff to improve services for patients.
PAUL STAINTON: Hinchingbrooke is a bit of a guinea pig though, isn’t it? Isn’t it a bit dangerous to experiment like this with hospitals?
ANDREW LANSLEY: Well of course you might have started by saying was this a programme begun under the last government. It was.
PAUL STAINTON: I don’t care which government. I’m just asking a serious question. If you were Labour Andrew, I’d be asking the same question.
ANDREW LANSLEY: Well the implication in your question was that it’s somehow connected to my plans. I didn’t start the process at Hinchingbrooke. What I do think however is that it is very clear that we cannot carry on in the NHS as we’ve done too often with hospital organisations that are running at deficits, which are receiving resources from elsewhere in the NHS at the expense of patient care. We provide resources to the NHS for the delivery of high quality care to patients. That’s where I hope the resources are being provided to.
PAUL STAINTON: Is this the way we’re going to go Andrew? Sorry to interrupt. We’ve got Peterborough in massive debt here. Our new hospital. Is this the way we’re going to go? Is Peterborough next?
ANDREW LANSLEY: Frankly you’re not sorry to interrupt, otherwise you wouldn’t keep doing it. The .. Peterborough .. Peterborough and Stamford is a Foundation Trust. They have a responsibility as a Foundation Trust to improve their services, and to do so without running up large deficits. The problems they have are ones that will be managed by that Foundation Trust, with Monitor and ourselves. That’s complete separate from the Hinchingbrooke. Hinchingbrooke is in that sense one option for how one can deal with the issues of deficits and lack of the right management in an individual hospital. As it happens, I don’t have any plans for the Hinchingbrooke example to be followed elsewhere. There are many other ways in which NHS Trusts can improve their management and performance, and we are pursuing all of those.
PAUL STAINTON: Companies like Circle though, they want to make a profit, don’t they? They’re going to want to expand this idea aren’t they, if they’re successful in Hinchingbrooke?
ANDREW LANSLEY: Well it’s only available to them to be expanded if that’s the right solution, based on a competition in other NHS Trusts. At the moment as I say there is no such proposal in place.
PAUL STAINTON: Are you confident Circle can deliver these promises that they’ve made and pay off this debt without cutting staff, without cutting services, and without doing all the things that people are afraid of?
ANDREW LANSLEY: Well I think, they were the winners in a process started over nearly two and a half years ago, the purpose of which was to establish who was capable of operating the NHS as a management team in a way that delivered improving services, and to pay off the deficit. They won that bid. They wouldn’t have entered into this contract, which from their point of view has a downside if they were not to succeed, they wouldn’t have entered into it unless they felt confident that they were capable of achieving it.
PAUL STAINTON: Is that a yes?
ANDREW LANSLEY: Well the answer is what I just said.
PAUL STAINTON: Well I was asking for your view. Is that a yes? You’re confident.
ANDREW LANSLEY: It’s not for me to be confident. They are confident, and the Strategic Health Authority, who agreed the contract with them, they were confident. From my point of view, we simply .. the Department of Health, my colleagues in looking at this, wanted to ensure that it was 2something which protected the interests of the public and the taxpayer. And from that point of view, it does. The contract does do that.
PAUL STAINTON: Andrew, thank you for coming on the show this morning. Appreciate that. Andrew Lansley the Health Secretary, answering all our questions this morning about Hinchingbrooke, the first hospital in the country to be run by a private company from today, Circle, with sixteen new initiatives. They’re going to improve patient care, safety and efficiency. They’re going to look after the staff, run the hospital, and save £40 million to pay off some of the debts.

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