The FT reports on Nuneaton Hospital’s attempts to procure a strategic partner

Interesting times to say the least in the UK’s health system, as the role of the private sector in delivering health care – still free at point of delivery and under the auspices of the health service - is becoming a major issue of debate and controversy.

The Financial Times reports that:

The board of George Eliot Hospital in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, decided at the end of May to seek permission from the Department of Health to tender for a strategic partner in an attempt to secure its future.

Nuneaton - alumni include George Eliot (novelist), Larry Grayson and Ken Loach

The hospital is one of 21 in the UK in severe financial difficulties – something dramatic must happen or they could, in theory at least, go out of business. And this “strategic partner” could be another more successful NHS hospital – or it could be a private sector provider of some sort.  However, the hospital had expected to get the go ahead by now, but has been told by the Department of Health that there is a “delay in assessing their business case”..

While Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire is already being operated by a private provider (Circle Health), that was actually agreed under the last Labour Government – so Nuneaton is the coalition government’s first key decision point in terms of whether to allow private involvement in running of a hospital.

And of course the Government can’t have it both ways. If they’re insisting on hospitals – not unreasonably – getting themselves on a decent financial footing, it’s hard to see how they can stop the hospitals taking what their management feels are necessary steps to achieve that.

What’s the alternative anyway – pump more public money in? At a time when the public finances are stretched, and given the message it would send to other struggling hospitals (i.e. money is there from the public purse as long as you make a fuss), I can’t see anything other than Nuneaton getting the OK eventually. But the delay may be another sign that political maneuvering within the coalition government is now getting in the way of necessary action in a number of policy areas.

First Voice

  1. Dan:

    I don’t get it. What can a ‘partner’ accomplish that the current management cannot? If the hospital can be saved by better management, then why do you need a ‘partner’? Just get rid of the current management and employ new ones.

    If it was a just a few ‘non-core’ elements that would be better provided by a specialist in those areas, then it would make more sense. This is just the management saying ‘we can’t do the job we were employed to’

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