Ministers accused of privatising NHS nursing agency

Ministers are considering ‘privatising’ an NHS agency that provides 50,000 nurses and other workers to the health service.
Ministers accused of privatising NHS nursing agencyAn advert has been placed for private sector investment in NHS Professionals, a company owned by the Department of Health, which provides bank staff to fill shifts in the health service.

Unions criticised the plan saying it was privatisation and that NHS Professionals was set up to stop the NHS being ripped off by private agencies charging large sums for staff to work unfilled shifts.

NHS Professionals has 50,000 staff on its books who cover around two million shifts in 77 organisations around England.

Karen Jennings, head of health at Unison, said: “The whole reason that NHS Professionals was set up, was because private agencies were ripping off hospitals by charging them outrageous fees for recruiting or finding staff for shifts. It makes no sense at all to bring back private companies who will want their slice of the action in return.

“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.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: “This is about exploring ways that the commercial skills of the independent sector can make NHS Professionals Ltd a more efficient business and save the NHS money.

“NHS Professionals Ltd is a business, not a public service, and like any business it must ensure its services are as efficient and effective as possible. We want to discuss options with potential independent sector investors that could help to achieve this, and ultimately improve services outcomes for patients.”

It comes as the Royal Berkshire Hospital Trust announced up to 600 jobs will be cut to make £60 million worth of savings in the next few years, pledging that frontline staff would not be affected.

The Royal College of Nursing said last month that thousands of NHS jobs were being cut despite Government promises to protect frontline services.

The nurses’ group said it was aware of almost 10,000 posts lost through recruitment freezes, redundancies and people not replaced when they retired, or which face cuts in the future.


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