Serious questions need to be asked about why it looks increasingly likely that a profit-driven private healthcare company will take over the running of the George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust in Nuneaton.
Unite, the country’s largest union, said today (Tuesday 11 February) that the financial goalposts have been moved to exclude University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire (UHCW) NHS Trust from the bidding, leaving two private companies and one NHS trust in the race to takeover the Warwickshire hospital.
Unite understands that the bidding process overseen by the Trust Development Authority (TDA) has applied new criteria set by Monitor which oversees the NHS ‘market’. The ‘financial liquidity’ criteria were changed by Monitor to exclude NHS hospitals with a private finance initiative (PFI) project, such as UHCW.
Unite head of health Rachael Maskell said: “The result is that UHCW has been forced to withdraw from the process to take over George Eliot. It appears that the goalposts have been moved to open the door wide for private healthcare companies to take over general district hospitals.
“Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has some very serious questions to answer about what is happening at George Eliot – it is the thin end of the wedge for the local population, as private healthcare companies put profit before patient care.
“There appears to be a financial sleight of hand at work here – and the people of Nuneaton have every right to be worried. UHCW had a very good bid in preparation and this has now been scuppered.”
Unite believes that the battle for the future of district general hospitals in England, which have served their local communities for generations, is being played out at the George Eliot hospital.
The hospital has become the first district hospital that the TDA has allowed private companies to tender for in a bid to reverse the hospital’s poor performance and high death rates which are now being robustly addressed.
Unite, with 100,000 members in the health service, argues that the reason that the hospital is in ‘special measures’ is because it is in a former mining area with high indicators of deprivation, such as heart disease and above average rates of obesity.
Rachael Maskell said “We don’t believe in the current ministerial panacea that because a hospital is in special measures, the private sector is the only answer.
“We believe that the future of district hospitals in England lies in a fully resourced, joined-up NHS and not being parcelled out to bidders from the private sector.
"Unite is active within the local community campaign to highlight the dangers of the privatisation of George Elliot and that the needs of local people should be put before that of private healthcare company shareholders.”
The three organisations currently left in the running to takeover George Elliot are two private companies – Circle and Care UK - and one NHS trust - South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust.
George Eliot has 318 beds, with 2,000 staff. Each year, it deals with 65,000 accident and emergency attendances, 20,000 planned admissions, 19,000 emergency admissions, 160,000 outpatient appointments and 2,500 births. The hospital opened in 1948 - the same year as the NHS - and is running a £5 million deficit.
For further information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 07768 693940
Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1 Web: unitetheunion.org
Notes to editors:
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.