Labour to ditch NHS vow

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The Independent Online

The Government is to climb down on an election promise to keep NHS staff in the public sector, in an attempt to free up a backlog of private finance hospital deals.

Whitehall sources revealed that the Secretary of State for Health, Alan Milburn, is considering ditching the pledge in the case of those hospitals that are transferred to the private sector. Instead, he is considering offering NHS clerical workers a revised package of pay and conditions to make the switch.

Many private companies have told the Government that they are not prepared to bid for Private Finance Initiative (PFI) hospital deals without the full transfer of clerical staff.

Under the PFI, the revenue received by private companies for running hospitals is based on performance. Because of this, some bidders argue that clerical staff must report to them to give them full control over their PFI income.

The new plan under consideration was drawn up by the Business Services Association (BSA), with the help of Prudential.

Code named "Super Tupe", it would offer transferring NHS staff full European employment rights, known as the Tupe regulations; an equivalent NHS pension; and a guaranteed pay scale.

Staff joining a hospital after a PFI deal was completed would be offered Tupe terms only. BSA director general Norman Rose said: "This is not necessarily how we would want to do business, but this is a way we are prepared to do business."

Last month, the row over NHS staff forced the Treasury to put three flagship PFI hospital projects worth £500m on hold. The projects, at Roehampton, Aylesbury and Ha-vering, attracted five bidders.

In addition, there are 29 PFI hospital projects on the drawing board, 12 of which are ready to advertise for bidders.