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During the recent holiday season, Hinchingbrooke hospital was inspected by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) as a follow-up to the initial five-day survey performed last September, and the results may lead the private institution to lose a critical contract. Circle, the private organization running Hinchingbrooke, has decided to pull the plug on their contractual obligations.
The main reason behind Circle’s decision lies with the quality of the hospital’s accident and emergency (A&E) services. The CQC reported that Hinchingbrooke lacked several key functions, from patient safety to leadership. They also noted the distinct lack of trained pediatric nurses to tend to the younger patients’ needs. Patients in other wards also had some insightful things to say about the nursing staff. Their poor responses to being called and bedside manner were practically nonexistent.
The chief inspector of hospitals with the CQC, Professor Sir Mike Richards, had much to share on the quality that Hinchingbrooke provides to their patients. For example, he said that there were significant staff shortages, which hurt the medical care given to the ill. With such heavy concerns surrounding Hinchingbrooke, the decision to place it under special measures is well-warranted.
Several of the conditions behind the private hospital’s new status will include revisions to their leadership, a potential link with a properly run medical institution in England, and a great degree of monitoring from the National Health Service (NHS) Trust and Development Authority. However, there are no parties, amongst those involved, owning up to the issues that led to this decision. CQC Inspector Richard said that the special measure assignment was neither a judgment on the private hospital circuit nor franchise arrangements.
Disregarding Richard’s statement, Circle Holdings is no longer going to support the hospital as the current terms make the contract between them non-viable. Hinchingbrooke hospital, however, has more to worry about than losing the critical contract, which may be damaging for Circle Holdings as well. As part of the NHS private sector, any vulnerabilities that plague Hinchingbrooke will plague the entire operation. The chairman of Circle, Michael Kirkwood, however, claimed that a good deal of thought went into making the withdrawal order.
Alongside comments from Kirkwood, Steve Melton, the chief executive of Circle, gave a statement on the results of the inspection. He gives some fault to the CQC’s new evaluation process, noting that they are not the only hospital to hold issue with it. That, along with the government upping A&E patient numbers and spending cuts, Circle believed Hinchingbrooke was now an “unsustainable” franchise.
Circle has pulled out of their 10-year contract with the NHS establishment under the condition that by donating a surplus amount of $5 million, they can simply end all obligations. The arrangement gave Jonathan Djanogly, Conservative MP for Huntingdon, need to comment. He said that the contracts between private firms and the NHS need to be given a closer look.
While Circle Holding has not abandoned the NHS medical trust completely, as it continues to support hospitals in Nottingham and Bedfordshire, it leaves one behind without a leg to stand on. Hinchingbrooke hospital, in the fallout of their critical contract with the firm, may lose patients as their faith in them, even when they possessed funding, was vitally low. The special measures agreement is their only way to turn things around for the future.
By Matthew Austin Bowers