Nurses who have transferred from the NHS to work in independent treatment centres feel “marooned” and worry about standards of care, latest research has revealed.
The study by Nottingham University Business School found some who made the move feared centres placed profit before patient care, while others “longed to return” to the NHS.
Researchers carried out in-depth interviews with 35 staff – 18 scrubs nurses, 10 operating department practitioners and seven theatre support workers – at two independent sector treatment centre (ISTC) day surgery units over two years.
A small number felt “abandoned by the NHS” while a significant proportion – 17% – felt “marooned” and were uncomfortable working in an environment they described as mainly driven by profit.
“We’re told all the time this isn’t the NHS. They expect us to do things differently, more ‘efficiently’ – that’s how they make their money,” said one nurse.
Another recalled a talk by an ISTC manager who told staff that the centre should “work like a car factory”.
Others strived to recreate the NHS in their new settings, while just 34% saw the move as an opportunity to enhance their careers by taking on new roles, provide better patient care and work more closely with other healthcare professionals.
The findings – published in the journal Sociology of Health and Illness – come amid concern over the government’s troubled NHS reform plan, which pledges to open up the service to “any willing provider”.
Lead researcher Justin Waring said plans involving the blanket transfer of NHS staff into the private sector overlooked the “profound implications” for nurses and others.
“For the clinicians involved it’s not always easy to reconcile change with established ways of working,” Dr Waring said.
“Many of them have reservations and even resentment. We need to find ways of easing the transition.”