'Basket-case' Hinchingbrooke Hospital reduces deficit

Hinchingbrooke Hospital main entrance Circle became the first private firm to manage an NHS hospital

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A hospital taken over by a private firm two years ago after being labelled a "basket-case" for running up £40m of debt says it will break even this year.

Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire was threatened with closure before being taken over by Circle in a £1bn, 10-year deal.

The private firm was the first to manage an NHS hospital, with staff and assets staying in state control.

Circle said the hospital's £10m annual deficit had been reduced to £1m.

Phil Green, regional organiser for the union Unison, said although it was good news the hospital was breaking even, it still had the original debt to repay.

"There's a £40m debt to pay back over 10 years," he said.

"They may be breaking even, but there's no evidence they're paying back the £40m to the NHS."

'Dysfunctional'

Before being take over by Circle, which is co-owned by doctors, the hospital had suffered a series of clinical and financial problems.

Hinchingbrooke Hospital graphic Circle took over the hospital's £40m debt in February 2012

The then health minister, Earl Howe, described it as a "basket-case" in November 2011 and it was labelled "dysfunctional" by the Royal College of Surgeons.

Circle chief executive Steve Melton said: "With the help of our dedicated team at Hinchingbrooke, we've reduced the £10m annual deficit by 90%.

"We hope to break even in 2014, putting the hospital back in the black for the first time in years."

The hospital said it had implemented changes such as reducing patients' length of stay, cutting locum bills in half and reducing the maternity insurance premium due to "high quality of care".

Earlier this month, it was named the top hospital in England for quality of patient care.

The hospital is based in Huntingdon and serves a population of about 160,000.

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