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MPs deliver damning verdict on Hinchingbrooke Hospital deal

Commons public accounts committee said oversight of controversial deal involving private operator Circle Holdings was poor

MPs have delivered a damning verdict on the 'innovative but ultimately unsuccessful' experiment in which a private company took over the running of an NHS hospital.

This follows an announcement in January by the company Circle Holdings that it was pulling out of a ten-year contract to run Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire, just two years into the controversial deal. On the same day, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) gave the trust an overall rating of 'inadequate' and recommended it be placed in special measures.

In a report published today, Margaret Hodge, chair of the public accounts committee, said: 'Oversight of the contract by the various parties who had a role was poor and inadequate and no one has been held accountable for the consequences.

'Accountabilities and responsibilities are fragmented and dispersed across the health system. Officials in the strategic health authority who developed the franchise arrangement have not been held to account... and the NHS Trust Development Authority (TDA), which was tasked with monitoring progress, did not oversee this high-risk venture effectively.'

Ms Hodge said the taxpayer had been left exposed by the failure of the franchise and called on the Department of Health and the TDA to ensure strong governance and clear accountability were put in place for any future 'novel or high-risk' venture.

The committee also warned that continued dispute about the CQC's findings, which Circle said were misleading and unbalanced, coupled with complicated transition arrangements back to the NHS, could distract the trust from continuing to improve its care.

'It is important the trust does not lose focus on continuing to improve the quality of its care and we look to the NHS TDA to take an active role in ensuring this does not happen,' she added.

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