In this case I am talking about the announcement this morning that Circle Holdings PLC's bid to run Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire has been approved. The hospital has big debts and one stipulation of the contract is that Circle will wipe them out.
Staff will remain on NHS contracts - what, really? Fully? All of them? - and the buildings revert to the NHS at the end of the contract. But what about the equipment bought in the interim? You see, we here in One Barnet are getting wise to the wrinkles that can make an outsourcing deal better or worse for us, the poor saps who are paying for it.
It's interesting that the Hinchingbrooke contract is for about £1bn. We are looking at that sort of figure for the big customer service contract that Barnet council are currently negotiating. Circle beat Serco to the Hinchingbrooke contract.
The Daily Mail quotes Nigel Beverley, interim Chief Executive for Hinchingbrooke Health Care NHS Trust, saying:
'We have been bowled over by Circle's enthusiasm and the efforts they have taken to engage with staff, patients and our other partners.'The only engagements that the companies bidding for Barnet's contracts have had are with council bigwigs and lawyers. The residents have not been consulted at all, so at least Circle have that over them.
What's my particular beef in the Circle/Hinchingbrooke case? The slick public presentation of this contract as representing win:win for the public and the company taking the hospital over. Circle is presented in the media as a John Lewis-type company, owned by staff. It isn't. The London Stock Exchange explains:
The Company's principal asset is its holding in Circle, an employee co-owned healthcare provider. Circle is 50.1 per cent. owned by the Company and 49.9 per cent owned by the Circle Partnership which is 100 per cent beneficially owned by Circle's clinicians and employees.(Naturally, Circle shares have gone up this morning.) What else? Perhaps Circle will deliver on what they have promised in this contract, but their game is not actually rescuing "failing" hospitals such as Hinchingbrooke. It is to make money from public services, that is, a portion of our taxes will go into the pockets of private shareholders and fat cats, such as chief executive Ali Parsa, the man I knew at university (he was then a leftist of sorts).
He will also seek to drive down staff pay and conditions. I would love to know what the terms for new employees will be.
Oh, yes, finally, where is Circle Holdings PLC incorporated? Jersey. You see, Ali wants to hang onto as much of our money as he can. Is this his just compensation for innovation, enterprise and risk-taking? No, it's just the dues we mugs pay when we fall for the spiel of a bloody good talker.