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Private provider to pull out of Hinchingbrooke Hospital contract due to ‘A&E demands’

A private healthcare provider is pulling out of running Hinchingbrooke Hospital, citing ‘unprecedented A&E demands’ and an upcoming CQC report that it expects to be ‘unbalanced’.

A statement from Steve Melton, the chief executive of Circle, said that the company has ‘entered into discussions with the Trust Development Authority with a view to withdrawing from the current contract’ for Hinchingbrooke Hospital, which it took over in early 2012 when it was the first private company to make such a move.

He said that ‘the playing field has changed’ since the contract was originally put out to tender in 2009, while adding that ‘funding has been cut by approximately 10.1% this year’.

In the terms of the contract, Circle are allowed to pull out once investment in the hospital has hit £5m, and Mr Melton said that £4.84m had already been invested.

Mr Melton said: ‘Like most hospitals, over the past year we have seen unprecedented A&E attendances – at times up to 30% higher, year-on-year – and not enough care places for healthy patients who await discharge.

‘Second, at the same time, our funding has been cut by approximately 10.1% this year.’

He added: ‘Finally, we were one of the first hospitals to be inspected under the CQC’s new process. We understand their report will be published soon, and fully expect it to be unbalanced and to disagree with many of its conclusions.

‘We recognise the importance of a regulator focussed on quality, but we are not the only hospital to find their process problematic. We believe that inconsistent and conflicting regulatory regimes compound the challenges for acute hospitals in the current environment.’

He went on pay tribute to the ‘amazing work’ of the staff.