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Andy Burnham MP, Labour's Shadow Secretary of State for Health,
said in response to the news that Circle Health Care has won the contract to manage Hinchingbrooke Hospital:

"Today's decision has worrying implications for the future of our NHS. It was taken after the Government changed Labour's policy on the use of the private sector in the NHS.

"As Health Secretary, I introduced the NHS Preferred Provider policy. Its underlying principles guided my approach on all matters of service provision in the NHS, including the difficult issues raised by Hinchingbrooke Hospital.

"By contrast, this Government scrapped NHS Preferred Provider immediately after the General Election. Since then, it has operated the Any Qualified Provider (AQP) principle and today's news must be seen in that new context.

"It is not in dispute that Hinchingbrooke Hospital has faced serious financial difficulties for some time. As a result, a process was initiated at local level by the NHS in Cambridgeshire to find new management for the hospital, during the period of the last Government.

"Initially, other regional NHS organisations were approached with a view to taking over the running of the hospital. However, this proved unsuccessful. Out of necessity, permission was sought by the PCT to look further afield, allowing NHS organisations from other areas, to tender, along with not-for-profit and private providers.

"This approach was consistent with the NHS Preferred Provider policy, where the NHS was given first chance to bid.  No decisions were taken by Labour on the future management of the hospital, but the principles of NHS Preferred Provider would have continued to guide our approach.

"This Government has signalled a completely different approach to these matters.  Its controversial Health and Social Care Bill is firmly based on the open tender, AQP principle.  It envisages a very different world in the NHS, where hospitals operate as autonomous business units in a competitive market.  That is the policy context in which this decision has been made.  

"Today's decision heralds a very different future for the NHS if the Government succeeds in driving through its dangerous Health and Social Care Bill.  The rules will be changed completely and 63 years of NHS history will be over.  The NHS will be opened up into a full-blown commercial market.

"This is not what patients, public or NHS staff want and it's time for the Government to listen and drop the Bill."

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