Circle’s original business plan for its running of Hinchingbrooke Healthcare Trust outlined a cut in the hospital’s workforce of 20 per cent, a document shared with HSJ reveals.

The business case published last month said the private franchise operator had anticipated cutting its then 1,600 workforce by around 320 whole time equivalents - although this information was redacted in the publicly available copy of the paper.  

The company yesterday told HSJ the figure was based on a “paper scenario” at the “worst case end of potential scenarios” in which the trust would need to save £230m in 10 years.

Circle said it was unable to say how many jobs would be cut in reality or how much would need to be saved.

Responding to HSJ’s enquiry about the job cut figure, Circle chief executive Ali Parsa said: “It’s funny how some always just want to ‘catch Circle out’.

“The fact is the bid set a clear scenario with big assumptions: ‘Save £230m over 10 years where income is reduced and work is transferred to the community’.   

“Under that scenario, it’s only natural some staff would be transferred to the assumed setting where care had transferred.”

The trust currently has 1,433 staff and has released 77 posts this year, none of which have involved compulsory redundancies. The larger 1,600 headcount figure relates to the scenario Circle was given when it made its initial business case prior to taking charge.  

The figure was included in a document called Hinchingbrooke Next Steps Full Business Case Version 2.9 (see attachment), first reported on by a health sector blogger.

It was published by NHS East of England on 11 September 2012 but the publicly available copy redacted a substantial amount of information including the job cuts figure. The report contains details of Circle’s bid as well as details of competing bids from other commercial providers.  

HSJ has seen a copy without the redaction. It says (on page 107): “Circle anticipate a reduction to the current workforce of circa 1,600 whole time equivalents by approximately 320.”

It adds that the proposed reductions would be achieved in a three-year period, with cuts to non-clinical services accounting around 60 per cent of savings and the remainder coming from clinical support services.

Mr Parsa said that paper scenarios “rarely replicated exactly in real life” and that in the future “we could see together with the staff required far less dramatic changes to the shape of the workforce than the paper scenario”.  

Circle, which last month posted a £4.1m budget deficit, was chosen as the preferred partner to run Hinchingbrooke in November 2010.