For those catching up on the background to the Hinchingbrooke story, here’s a quick guide through HSJ’s coverage of Circle’s involvement over the past four years


Circle’s 10 year management contract was signed by the government – after long delay – in late 2011. Then health minister Simon Burns told the Commons the agreement was a “good deal for patients and staff at Hinchingbrooke”.

He added: “There is an incentive and a pressure on Circle to seek to deliver on reducing and, we hope, eliminating over the 10 years the [trust’s £40m] historical deficit.”

The first solid evidence that this massive financial turnaround was unlikely to occur came in 2011 when HSJ revealed that the terms of the deal meant Hinchingbrooke would have to deliver at least £70m of surpluses to clear those £40m debts.


By the end of 2012, Circle’s then chief executive Ali Parsa stepped down, as Hinchingbrooke’s deficit in its first year under Circle’s management rose sharply higher than planned.


In early 2013 the Commons public accounts committee concluded that NHS Midlands and East had “failed” in its management of health resources on Hinchingbrooke’s patch, leaving two hospitals – Hinchingbrooke and Peterborough – whose “financial viability and future is in doubt”.

Around the same time, HSJ reported that interest in the NHS franchise model had “waned dramatically”.


At the end of the following financial year, HSJ broke the news that Hinchingbrooke had recorded a deficit for its second year running under Circle management.

It later became clear that these deficits had brought losses to within £150,000 of the £5m cap at which Circle could pull out of the deal early.

Shortly after, HSJ revealed that Hinchingbrooke had been forced to withdraw a controversial offer to pay GPs a £50 “administrative fee” for surgery referrals, claiming the proposal had been “misunderstood”.

Then in September a leak to HSJ revealed that the then ongoing Care Quality Commission inspection of Hinchingbrooke had raised serious concerns for the regulator about care quality, management and culture at the hospital.

A week later another leak revealed that the regulator had raised the possibility that Hinchingbrooke could face regulatory action from the CQC.

In November HSJ revealed that Hinchingbrooke could face losing core services such as accident and emergency under reconfiguration plans being considered in the local health economy, despite earlier assurances that franchising the hospital would protect it from such a move.


In January Circle announced plans to pull out of its 10 year contract to run Hinchingbrooke Health Care Trust, the UK’s only privately managed NHS district general hospital.

Updated: Hinchingbrooke in special measures after care judged 'inadequate'