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Government halts sale of NHS Professionals staffing agency

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The government has revealed that is abandoning its plans to sell off the health service’s in-house workforce agency just under a year after it began the process.

The Department of Health announced it was marketing NHS Professionals – a subsidiary company that provides temporary staff to trusts – in November 2016.

However, it has this morning revealed that NHS Professionals will instead remain in public hands.

The department said that none of the bids it had received reflected the increasing value of the organisation, which has more than 100,000 clinical and non-clinical staff on its books.

Bidders for the company were reported to include temporary workforce firm Staffline, outsourcing firm Serco, and a private equity company, said Health Service Journal.

The DH revealed that, since November 2016, NHS Professionals had increased its profits before tax by 44% and this would allow it to update its information technology and expand its offer to the NHS.

“It will be able to modernise and improve services to NHS trusts, while remaining under public ownership”

Philip Dunne

The costs the DH incurred with lawyers and management consultants in the sell off will be paid off by the increase in profits. As of July this year, such costs had reached roughly £2m, according to Health Service Journal.

Ministers previously said that they would take back control of the company if any potential buyer did not continue to provide high quality staff to NHS trusts at low margins.

In a statement, health minister Philip Dunne said: “Our priority throughout this process has been to ensure the best possible outcome for NHS Professionals and our NHS as a whole.

“So, I am pleased that the company’s improved performance means it will be able to modernise and improve services to NHS trusts, while remaining under public ownership,” he said.

“This will not only help in our drive to reduce the use of expensive agency staff across the NHS – which has further reduced by 22% in the first quarter of this year – but will also mean that savings can be reinvested in frontline services for the benefit of patients,” he added.

“It is staggering that proposals for a sale got this far”

Justin Madders

A crackdown on the use of agency staff by the regulator NHS Improvement has seemingly halted the spiralling increase in temporary staff costs being incurred by the health service over recent years.

Commenting on news that the government had abandoned the sale of NHS Professionals, Labour health spokesman Justin Madders said: “This is a major U-turn on a misguided policy from a government with no solution to the workforce crisis in the NHS.

“Ministers tried to push through a sale behind closed doors but have been forced to abandon their plans in the face of wide opposition from NHS staff and patients,” he said.

“This is an effective and successful public body which saves the taxpayer around £70m a year on the government’s own estimates, by ensuring hospitals don’t have to rely on expensive private staffing agencies,” said Mr Madders.

sara gorton unison

sara gorton unison

Sara Gorton

He added: “At a time when the government says it wants to cut back the use of temporary workers, it is staggering that proposals for a sale got this far.”

The move was also welcomed by the union Unison. Its head of health Sara Gorton said: “The government has at last seen sense. NHS Professionals is an organisation that saves the health service money and ensures there are enough staff on wards.

“But despite many warnings, ministers have once again gone through a pointless exercise, wasting millions of pounds of taxpayers’ cash,” she said. “Instead of filling the pockets of management consultants, this money could have been better spent improving services for patients.

“Selling off NHS Professionals would have been completely counterproductive and bad for patients and staff,” she added.

 

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