Socialist Worker

Hinchingbrooke: a warning from the future of the NHS

by Julie Sherry
Issue No. 2302

Campaigners protested against the privatisation of Hinchingbrooke in 2010 (Pic: Cambridgeshire Against the Cuts)

Campaigners protested against the privatisation of Hinchingbrooke in 2010 (Pic: Cambridgeshire Against the Cuts)

The private firm that has taken over the running of Hinchingbrooke hospital in Cambridgeshire is set to make millions in profits by axing services.

Hinchingbrooke is the first ever NHS hospital to be privately managed.

It is a guinea pig for what Tory health secretary Andrew Lansley wants to do to healthcare.

The contract offers a frightening glimpse into the future of the NHS.

The firm Circle Health signed a deal in February that allows it to keep the first £2 million of any annual “surplus” at the hospital.

It will get a quarter of any profits between £2 million and £6 million—and a third of the profits between £6 million and £10 million.

Circle will have to take an axe to services at the hospital in order to make these kinds of profits.

Aileen is a health worker in the Unite union. She told Socialist Worker that the danger of privatisation is “felt very sharply” at the hospital where she works.

She added, “A private firm took over our pathology services—and now it’s quite clear that patients are no longer being put first.”

Hinchingbrooke hospital was picked for privatisation as part of a so-called rescue plan after it fell into £40 million of debt.


But this debt was always fictional. It was owed by the hospital to the NHS itself—thanks to the chaos of the internal market imposed on the health service.

Circle’s chief executive Ali Parsa insists the firm is a “social enterprise” that “always reinvests profits back”.

But Parsa is a former Goldman Sachs banker.

His home features an indoor fishpond and a mosaic of a Persian king.

Circle Health is controlled by Circle Holdings, which was listed on the stock market in June last year.

Almost 95 percent of the shares in the holding firm are owned by hedge funds such as Odey European, Lansdowne, Balderton and BlueCrest.

They ploughed £120 million into the firm—and they are looking for a fat return.

They hope to turn a hospital that treats 160,000 people a year into their personal cash dispenser.

Many NHS campaigners predicted that this would happen. Steve Sweeney, secretary of Huntingdon and St Neots trades council, was part of the campaign to keep Hinchingbrooke public.

He told Socialist Worker two years ago, “When these companies get their hands on public money, they end up taking millions in profits but not delivering proper treatment.”

Unions at Hinchingbrooke hospital are demanding that all surpluses should be used to improve patient care and balance the books—rather than being creamed off into the pockets of the bosses.

If we don’t fight back now, this is what the Tories have in store for all our hospitals.

Keep Our NHS Public and the NHS Support Federation have called a national NHS supporters’ conference on 23 June in London.

It will discuss the next steps for a national fightback against privatisation.

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.