The Care Quality Commission has upgraded Hinchingbrooke Health Care Trust’s rating from ‘inadequate’ to ‘requires improvement’ but it remains in special measures.

  • Hinchingbrooke rating upgraded to ‘requires improvement’ but stays in special measures
  • New rating based on follow up inspection which occured before original highly critical CQC report published
  • Former Hinchingbrooke operator Circle claims new rating vindicates view that original inspection was “flawed”

The improved rating is based on a follow-up inspection the regulator carried out shortly before it published a highly critical report on the trust in January.

Hinchingbrooke was, until the beginning of this month, the only trust in the country to be operated by a private company – Circle. It returned to the NHS on 1 April.


Circle was ‘astonished’ by the new inspection report rating at Hinchingbrooke

The CQC carried out its original inspection in September and published its first report for the trust on 9 January, rating it “inadequate” and recommending that it be placed in special measures.

During their September inspection the CQC highlighted “serious concerns” with the trust and asked it to make improvements.

The CQC then returned to re-inspect the trust on 2 January to “check on progress with those improvements”. At the time of the CQC’s inspection the trust was still being run by Circle.

The new report, which improves Hinchingbrooke’s rating, is based on that follow-up inspection.

The CQC chief inspector of hospitals Sir Mike Richards said: “When we returned to inspect Hinchingbrooke Health Care Trust we found a number of improvements had been made on the Apple Tree and Juniper wards.

“We were pleased the trust had acted swiftly to make improvements to these wards and to safety in the emergency department. However, these changes need to be sustained and embedded.

“I am not recommending the trust comes out of special measures at this stage, and our inspectors will return to check on what further improvements have been made at a later date.”

In the new report Hinchingbrooke is rated “requires improvement” for being safe, effective, caring and responsive, but is still rated “inadequate” for being well led.

The original report had rated it “inadequate” in the areas of caring and safety.

A Circle spokesman said the company was “astonished” by the new report and claimed it “entirely vindicates our view that the inspection of Hinchingbrooke was flawed”.

“This second report is based on an inspection carried out before the CQC’s first report. We simply cannot understand why they published a critical report after an inspection that showed a different result. This was deeply misleading to patients, and will inflame the sense of injustice we know many Hinchingbrooke staff feel.”

The spokesman said that since their inspection, “the CQC have changed their conflict of interest policy, changed the guidance for inspected hospitals, seem to have changed the publication process, retracted many serious allegations, and confirmed that they didn’t actually witness any harm to patients”.

“They now appear to have changed the overall rating,” he said. “That’s a victory, but calls into question the credibility of the entire inspection.

“Hinchingbrooke was the same hospital, run the same way, with Circle still in charge during both inspections.”