Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is selling off NHS firm which saves taxpayer £70m a year

Doctors slammed move as 'utterly ludicrous'

Will Worley
Tuesday 27 June 2017 14:14 BST
NHS Professionals supplies 90,000 medical workers to the health service
NHS Professionals supplies 90,000 medical workers to the health service (AFP/Getty Images)

The government is quietly privatising an NHS staffing agency that manages more than 90,000 people and saves the taxpayer millions.

The service's use of agency workers has increased massively in recent years and the agency, NHS Professionals (NHSP), supplies staff more cheaply than private firms.

The Department of Health-owned private limited company, which employs 506 people, was created in 2010 and is used by dozens of NHS Trusts in England. It saves the NHS £70m a year on staffing.

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Privately hired medical workers cost the NHS up to 30 per cent more than through NHSP, according to the Financial Times. Agency staffing costs the NHS around £4bn annually.

The newspaper reported the government plans to sell around 75 per cent of the business and withhold the rest, with the option to sell the rest within five years.

Bids reportedly include £50m from recruitment firm Staffline.

NHS workers have slammed the prospect of further NHS privatisation.

“This is utterly ludicrous,” said anaesthetist Tim Martindale on Twitter. “NHSP is a great organisation which is designed to save on expensive agency fees.”

Sarah Holmes MBE, a nurse and midwife, said it was “yet another example of profit being made exploiting scarce NHS resources and people”. She added: “This is awful.”

Dr Shweta Gidwani said: “This is disastrous!”

Others urged staff registered with the agency to withdraw their services after the sale.

Last November, Philip Dunne, Minister of State for Health, said the deal was necessary to create investment and bring in expertise.

“The Company is in a prime position to respond to the NHS’s need for more cost effective and better planned temporary staffing,” Mr Dunne said.

“It currently saves the NHS approximately £70 million a year by supplying bank staff to hospitals which are more affordable than those staff supplied by expensive agencies.

“We want to see the Company take advantage of this opportunity to expand its business, acting as a true alternative to expensive agencies. But the Company cannot do this without substantial investment to improve the services it offers.”

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