So – Hinchingbrooke NHS Trust has gone down the plug-hole. Privately controlled vultures have been circling over-head – Hinchingbrooke’s demise has been long fore-told – and, neatly enough, it was the circling Circle Health Ltd who have been allowed to swoop down and pluck the entrails of the Trust from the clutch of the drains. We now have, Circle say, the ‘first franchised NHS trust’. NHS East of England, the SHA ‘overseeing’ the deal, was far more upbeat. ‘History was made today’ was their clarion call, as a ‘groundbreaking’ deal secured a ‘bright future’ for the debt-laden Trust.
Now there are some who say that this is privatisation. In fact it is not – yet. The ‘balance sheet assets’ – beds, bricks and mortar etc – remain, we are told, in NHS ownership, and the staff, we are told, will be seconded on NHS terms to Circle. Instead of privatising the Trust, Circle have been given the franchise to run the hospital – and the franchise model is not a privatisation model.