Government to sell off its NHS Professionals agency

5 Aug 10
The Department of Health is to sell off its arm's-length staffing agency, as part of a push to 'maximise value' and reduce staffing costs

By David Williams

5 August 2010

The Department of Health is to sell off its arm’s-length staffing agency, as part of a push to ‘maximise value’ and reduce staffing costs. 

NHSProfessionals Ltd, which is wholly owned by the DoH, is the largest supplier of temporary staff to the health service, with around 50,000 workers on its books.

The DoH today invited private sector investors to step forward and register an interest in buying some or all of the company. According to a notice published in the Official Journal of the European Union, businesses will be able to put their names down from August 9 until August 27.

Public Finance understands the department is willing to consider a range of options, from selling blocks of shares to making the whole company available to the highest bidder.

Officials expect that private sector involvement will enable staff to be contracted to public bodies at a cheaper rate than the company can currently offer.

A DoH statement said the move is ‘in line with the government’s policy to maximise the value of assets and commercial opportunities’.

Unison, which represents public sector workers, has reacted with fury. Karen Jennings, head of health, pointed out that the agency was set up because private contractors were ‘ripping off hospitals’ by charging ‘outrageous fees.’

Predicting the sell-off would lead to a rise in staffing costs, she said: ‘This proposal is purely about Tory plans to promote privatisation and hive off parts of the NHS to private companies, regardless of the consequences on patient care.’

NHS Professionals recruits around 1,000 new people a month, and over the course of a year fills more than 2 million shifts in the NHS.

The company currently works with about 80 health trusts, across the primary care, acute and mental health sectors. Its staff work in both clinical and clerical posts. 

The move follows the department’s Arm's-LengthBodies Review, published last month, which recommended reducing the number of bodies from 18 to around 10. It also said the NHS Business Services Authority should be sold off and the Alcohol Education and Research Council and Appointments Commission scrapped.

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