Centene, a major US health insurer, has just agreed to sell off its largest British acquisition, Circle Healthcare, which owned the UK’s biggest chain of private hospitals.
The US corporation’s British subsidiary Operose, which had previously bought up a minority share of Circle in 2019, only bought the remaining 60% of the company for $700m in 2021, in what appeared to be the first really substantial US bid for a stake in the British health care market.
Circle itself began as a small-scale operator of tiny (29-bed) private hospitals and provider of elective care to the NHS through Independent Sector Treatment Centres. It rose to national notoriety when it won the controversial 10-year £1 billion contract to manage Hinchingbrooke Hospital, which had been seen as the first in a series of such contracts, but came to a disastrous, premature end in 2015, leaving the hospital in chaos and mired in debt.
After such a graphic display of the lack of private sector expertise in running even one of the smaller NHS hospitals, no further attempts have been made.
Full article in The Lowdown, 29 August 2023