Private firms could take over the management of failing NHS hospitals
Plans for a private firm to run a Cambridgeshire hospital have been condemned by campaigners.
Hinchingbrooke Hospital NHS Trust is one of 20 struggling hospital trusts earmarked for private management in a government announcement on Wednesday.
The Strategic Health Authority said after consultation the hospital's board had already agreed to step down.
The Save Hinchingbrooke Hospital group condemned the move for focusing on profits and not patients.
In June 2007, Hinchingbrooke, reported to be £29m in debt, was given a reprieve from closure by the Cambridgeshire Primary Care Trust who secured more services within the community and made savings by cutting jobs.
But a year on, the East of England Strategic Health Authority said the financial status of the trust remained uncertain and welcomed the government's announcement of the NHS regime for poor performing hospitals, which it said it was already working towards.
In a statement, the authority said: "The local NHS created a plan to save the hospital and provide safe, sustainable and clinically effective services for the people of Huntingdon for the long term.
'Noose around neck'
"This plan was put out to consultation and the level of services for the site were agreed, along with the agreement that the current board would step down and new management would be put in place."
Health Minster Ben Bradshaw said bringing in private firms to run hospitals was an option aimed at improving performance and would not see staff or assets transferred away from the NHS.
But Mike Gough, from Save Hinchingbrooke Hospital, said the government was passing the buck after causing debt.
"It should be patients, not profits," he said.
"The hospital's in the top 40 in the UK - top five for patient satisfaction.
"It's doing well yet the only thing that's a noose around its neck is this historical debt that was caused by the government in the first place.
"The government started this debt off by the changing the way the health service worked, and Hinchingbrooke unfortunately was a victim of it."