£6.7 million payoff to failing Stevenage health clinic ‘a disgrace’

Nick Carver, chief executive of the East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust, and Stephen McPartland,

Nick Carver, chief executive of the East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust, and Stephen McPartland, MP for Stevenage, with Treatment Centre staff after the takeover - Credit: Archant

A payoff of £6.7 million of public money to the owner of a failed private health clinic has been called “a disgrace”.

Opened in 2011 on the Lister Hospital site in Stevenage, the Surgicentre was run by private company Clinicenta, which is part of Carillion.

It was beset with problems, leading health watchdog the Care Quality Commission to begin the process of suspending Clinicenta’s licence.

In April 2012, the Surgicentre – which offers day case surgery and some short-stay surgery, as well as eye services – was found to be failing four out of five areas of inspection, putting patients’ health and welfare at risk.

Following this, NHS Hertfordshire told GPs to stop referring eye patients due to patient waiting times, and three unexpected patient deaths sparked an investigation.

The facility was taken over by the East and North Herts NHS Trust, which runs Lister Hospital, in August 2013 and renamed the Treatment Centre.

It was bought by the Government for £52.3m and the Trust said it expected to incur £2.3m in costs – through mobilising the service and the fact the service was running at a loss.

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A Freedom of Information request to the Department of Health has now revealed Clinicenta was given £6.7m towards staff redundancies, winding the service up, loss of earnings in the three years its contract still had to run, and the breakage cost of a loan Clinicenta took out to fund the building’s construction.

Patrick Newman, a member of the East and North Herts Independent Health Monitoring Group, said: “The payoff is a disgrace. It’s a reward for failure. We are familiar with it in the banking world, but it shouldn’t be possible in the health world.

“Will it have an effect on local health spending?

“I think it’s completely wrong. Clinicenta’s situation was self-generated by its failure to manage the unit properly.”

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: “Most of the £52.3 million settlement was to pay for the state-of-the-art medical facility. The remaining £6.7m was to cover costs incurred by Clinicentre following the termination of the contract – we do not expect them to make a profit from this.

“This was the least costly and disruptive option for the taxpayer and has resulted in a new, high-quality healthcare centre for people in Hertfordshire.”

A spokesman for Clinicenta was unavailable for comment.