The Franchising of Hinchingbrooke Hospital

Last night was the final public meeting into the franchising of Hinchingbrooke Hospital. The BBC’s Samantha Dalton was there.
Broiadcast at 07:20 on Friday 24th September 2010 in the Peterborough Breakfast Show on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.

HOST: Now no essential services will be cut when a private company takes over the running of Hinchingbrooke Hospital. It’s a hospital many people in Peterborough know well. It’s a reassurance given to members of the public last night at the final public meeting into the franchising of Huntingdon’s hospital. But as our reporter Samantha Dalton found out, not everyone is convinced. (TAPE)
PUBLIC: I still can’t understand how anybody can be daft enough to bid to be a franchisee, if they’ve got to pay back forty million debt, if they’ve got to make a profit for their shareholders. And as we’ve been told tonight, if everything is going to stay equally as good, well then where do they make their money from? Something has to change.
SD: There’s no doubt that by next year Hinchingbrooke Hospital will be managed by a private company. But bosses at the Strategic Health Authority say it’ll still look and feel like an NHS hospital, and importantly, treatment will still be free. Andrew MacPherson is leading the project for NHS East of England.
AM: There’s nothing like a competition to drive up standards, to generate perhaps better value for money, and ultimately to better outcomes for patients.
SD: The two bidders that are remaining. Serco and Circle, obviously these are companies. They are in this to turn a profit.
AM: Yes.
SD: So do we yet know how they’re going to turn a profit?
AM: This is inevitably a challenge, or a question that gets raised. Will this be at the expense of services, or patient experience? These are NHS services. They’re NHS standards, NHS prices. Those standards will not be compromised. We have potential for efficiencies, capabilities, and as I say back to my point about innovation, and bringing fresh thinking into play, to be sharper and smarter in getting the best possible deal for the Hospital. But there is no question of services and standards being compromised. If anything, this whole competitive process will in fact drive up standards. And as I say, most important, create a sustainable future for the Hospital.
SD: Confidentiality law means no details of what the bidders are planning for Hinchingbrooke can be released to the public. This was a great source of frustration for people at last night’s meeting, including Jonathan Salt, a member of the stakeholder panel. He’s questioning how a commercial organisation plans to profit from a Trust in financial trouble.
JS: The Hospital is running, it is breaking even at the moment. It doesn’t make business sense that a company is going to come in, take on the running of the Hospital, and take on the forty million pound debt. None of the companies, when they presented to the stakeholders panel, could explain how they were going to make a profit. We’re talking about big businesses here, looking to buy a multi-million pound concern, and a contract. And they don’t know how they’re going to make a profit? Sorry. That just doesn’t ring true. Either they’re incompetent, or they’re not telling us the truth.
SD: So the next date for your diary, October 4th. By then we’ll know the company or comanies, invited to tender for the contract. (LIVE)
HOST: Sam Dalton with a look at the problems facing Hinchingbrooke Hospital.