Marching to save the NHS, photo Mary Finch

Marching to save the NHS, photo Mary Finch   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Jon Dale, secretary, Unite EM/NG32 Nottinghamshire Health

A private company is taking the NHS to court, because its contract to run Nottingham University Hospital’s outpatient-treatment centre was not renewed.

Circle had the £320 million contract for eleven years. When the contract came up for renewal, the Clinical Commissioning Group awarded it back to the hospital trust, who put in a cheaper bid.

Circle claim to be concerned the trust will not be able to provide the service at lower cost as staff will benefit from “improved NHS terms” – an admission some Circle staff are paid less!

Circle is clearly so concerned about the NHS’s financial state – its court case is forcing the NHS trust to pay £1 million in legal costs. This is the second time Circle has gone to court over the contract.

Nottingham skin patients quickly lost their service when the company first took over the treatment centre. All the consultant dermatologists refused to work for Circle because of its record in refusing to pay consultants for research and training.

Circle also walked away from its contract to run Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire when they found they weren’t making the profit they expected.

The health trade unions should now demand that Circle’s finances are open to union inspection. How much profit have they made from the Nottingham contract over the past eleven years? Circle is majority-owned by hedge funds.

Al the staff at the treatment centre should be taken on by the NHS at trade union-negotiated rates of pay and conditions of work. Local Unison and Unite branches are campaigning against Circle along with Keep Our NHS Public and the Socialist Party.

Labour is pledging to take privatised services back into the NHS. A good start would be to assure the NHS trust that Circle, and all other profiteering companies, will be kicked out by a Corbyn-led government, so money is spent on patient care not wasted on legal costs.