Yes, the inevitable has finally happened.
With the announcement that the the failing NHS Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire will be handed over to private health company Circle, the slow but inevitable privatization of the British health system has begun.
The decision hasn’t been taken lightly. As the Telegraph’s Andrew Porter notes, the Treasury took over a year to sign off on the deal, indicating severe apprehension at touching what many view as a key cornerstone of British society (and potentially electoral suicide for the Conservatives).
Hinchingbrooke is running at a loss of £5 million ($8 million) a year on revenues of £90 million ($143 million), with accumulated debts of £40 million ($64 million). It’s hoped that a private company can cut down on bureaucracy and improve efficiency.
Criticisms have already come in. The head of health at Unison, Christina McAnea, told the Guardian, “We just don’t accept there is no expertise within an organisation the size of the NHS, and to turn to the private sector, which has a very patchy record in delivering these kind of services, is an accident waiting to happen.”
Circle, as the first private company to take over an entire British hospital, has a lot of weight resting on its shoulders. That Circle is run by a former Goldman Sach banker, Ali Parsa, may rankle the critics too. But even critics may have to accept that this limited privatization may prove to be what the NHS needs. Nicholas Timmins of the FT argues that “Circle is undoubtedly innovative”.
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