Parsa: the Mo Farah of the NHS

Ali Parsa, the chief executive of Circle Holdings (Circle), may have surprised a few people when he drew a comparison between himself and Mo Farah, who claimed gold for the UK in both the 5,000 and 10,000 metre races at this year’s London Olympics. 

After all, the UK’s National Audit Office (NAO) recently revealed that Circle – a private sector concern drafted in to run ailing Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire in February – had delivered an in-year deficit of £4.1 million (€5.1 million; $6.5 million) for the February to September period, some £2 million higher than Circle’s earlier projections. 

Circle/Hinchingbrooke is seen as a test case of the private sector’s ability to turn around struggling National Health Service (NHS) hospitals. The firm has been set the task of achieving savings of £300 million over a 10-year period. Quite a challenge given that Hinchingbrooke has been previously described as a “clinical and financial basketcase”. 

The early results may suggest that Circle is struggling to live up to its billing and that the performance so far has been less than gold medal standard. But the NAO did acknowledge that clinical and patient satisfaction were on the rise and said it had not concluded that Circle was unable to deliver an acceptable result. 

It is this possibility of ultimate success – in spite of early travails – that appears to have brought Farah to Parsi’s mind. In an interview on Radio 4, he pointed out that you cannot judge whether Mo Farah will win the Olympic 10,000 metres at the end of the first kilometre. 

This is true, of course, but we can’t help thinking it’s a comparison that piles unecessary pressure on a company that already has a lot to live up to. Moreover, aren’t the British famed for their admiration of plucky losers? Perhaps the bar could be set a bit lower by striving to emulate – let’s think – Tim Henman, for example.  The plucky tennis star always gave his best, had legions of fans…and never won a single Grand Slam tournament.