Hinchingbrooke, George Eliot and Liars


In the summer of 2013 the trade unions led a major campaign to prevent the “franchise” of George Eliot Hospital in Nuneaton.  We were told that a franchise was the only possible solution for the Trust to survive and it provided the Business Case which set this out and which was approved by all and sundry.  It was claimed that franchise could enable the kind of changes and costs savings that would be impossible within the normal NHS.  A full blown EU procurement was under way to get the best “partner”.

A strong rebuttal of the business case was provided by the unions setting out that the claims about franchise were at best unproven and almost certainly untrue.  Such a turnaround as that expected had never been done including by Circle at Hinchingbrooke although all sorts of claims had been made about what they were GOING to do.  The request to stop the procurement was not well received.

It is no surprise to report that the case put up by the trade unions was met by a less than enthusiastic response from George Eliot management and their advisors – the Strategic Projects Team. No surprise as the SPT were those that led the Hinchingbrooke debacle and who won awards for their brilliance. (Oh the irony!!.)  The SPT had also been involved in a string of failed projects such as the Pathology Restructuring in the East and Midlands yet they were regarded as experts.

Despite the strong case put by the unions the exercise to franchise George Eliot surged ahead.  Some months later for reasons that made as little sense as the original case the exercise was stopped.  At about the same time the attempt to franchise Weston Hospital (also with SPT involvement) was also pushed into the long grass.  All that is left is murmurs about what could be done for ailing Peterborough and Stamford which Circle also offered to help with. (Oh the irony!!).

The original franchise exercise for Hinchingbrooke is mired in controversy as are the linked absurdities of the Peterborough and Stamford PFI and the ailing Addenbrookes PFI exercise with Papworth.  Instead of a strategic view of the locality there were three separate projects all with strong private sector involvement.  The then East of England SHA was the centre for the ideas around increasing use of the private sector and created the SPT to drive privatisation.

The record of the SPT is factually terrible yet they continue to be used without any formal procurement or challenge.  The SPT continues to pretend it is part of the NHS and is currently hosted in an outpost of NHS England – but it is predominantly just a collection of private consultants not NHS employees at all.

The Public Accounts Committee should take a look at the SPT.

Previous attempts at franchise did not work.  Now we know the evidence on the actual performance of the only current franchise shows that despite all the help and support and the rhetoric – it failed miserably to achieve the claims made for it – the claims repeated in the business cases for both GE and Weston.  Yet we now have the Dalton Review for the Department of Health, into the future for NHS Trusts peddling the same nonsense.

Enough is enough.