LETTER: Resist Hinchingbrooke Hospital acquisition by Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Peterborough City Hospital ENGEMN00120110223171837
Peterborough City Hospital ENGEMN00120110223171837

Some years ago in a series of lectures I gave, I said that if the NHS were a patient, it would be locked up in a secure unit, to prevent it from damaging itself further with self-inflicted wounds.

It seems in the intervening years, nothing has changed.

The current proposed acquisition of Hinchingbrooke Hospital by Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, needs to be resisted by anyone who wishes to see Hinchingbrooke retained as a clinically sustainable and financially viable district general hospital, publicly provided, publicly funded and publicly accountable.

Accountability has never been a strong point of NHS management. For instance the two previous chairmen of what was the Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire Strategic Health Authority have never been held to account for the financial basket case they permitted Hinchingbrooke Hospital to become between 2006 and 2010. Neither were they asked to explain what led to the privatised fiasco of the Circle Contract. More recently is the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group’s (C&PCCG) abysmal handling of the Older People’s and Adult Community Services Contract (value £725Million) which was terminated in December 2015, only a few months after the contract was awarded.

To-date, no one has been held accountable for this debacle. The subsequent internal audit by the West Midland Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust found that the Pre-Qualification Process and contract award carried out by C&PCCG was deficient in the extreme. They also apparently found the C&PCCG did not carry out a sufficient due diligence test on the selected provider before awarding the contract.

Once again, our taxpayer’s money has been wasted by another incompetent NHS organisation. Now it is the very same commissioning group together with the Peterborough & Stamford Hospitals Foundation Trust (PSHFT) and its’ horrific PFI contract debt, that is now pressing together with NHS England to force through the acquisition of Hinchingbrooke Hospital by Peterborough. They are seeking to recoup some of the money they have wasted on their ill-conceived contracts at the expense of our beloved Hinchingbrooke Hospital and to the detriment of Huntingdonshire residents and others within the Hinchingbrooke Hospital catchment area.

To ensure that the Hinchingbrooke non-executive board may be held accountable for any future decisions regarding our highly regarded local hospital, it is essential that the existing board is changed with immediate effect as four of its current members have been parachuted in from outside the area, and are making decisions about Hinchingbrooke which fly in the face of the needs of the local population. We need to have a board that is made up of Huntingdonshire residents with appropriate skill sets, and one that is representative of the local population. This would be in line with the Government’s commitment to devolve power to local communities, and is supported by the Hands-Off Hinchingbrooke Campaigners too.

Huntingdonshire has previously demonstrated that when it was controlling its own health budget, as it did with Huntingdonshire Primary Care Trust (2001-2006), it was able to sustain a financially viable and clinically sustainable health system, including Hinchingbrooke Hospital. The hospital only ran into financial trouble in 2006 due the then Strategic Health Authority (SHA) failing to ensure a due diligence audit was carried out before the Diagnostic and Treatment Centre was built under a PFI project. Since that time, the hospital has been a puppet of both the SHA and its subsequent successor paymasters, the Trust Development Authority (TDA) (now the NHS Improvement Commission) and Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group.

The health care budget for Huntingdonshire should be returned to a new Huntingdonshire health body, possibly a Huntingdon Community Health Trust (HCHT). Such a proposition will, of course, be resisted fiercely by the existing NHS establishment, but given their abysmal track record both nationally and locally, we have nothing to fear by challenging the existing status quo. A new Huntingdonshire Community Health Trust with the right people in charge and we have such people here in Huntingdonshire and properly funded, can create a health care model of excellence.

Michael Lynch

Victoria Crescent

Houghton & Wyton