The government has dodged questions about the privatisation of NHS Professionals for long enough, it's time to launch an enquiry.
An investigation must be launched into the imminent privatisation of a key part of the NHS, campaigners have said.
Last month, Left Foot Forward reported that NHS Professionals – an in-house emergency staffing agency that provides over 90,000 doctors and other healthcare workers for around 60 NHS trusts in England – is set to be sold off in the Autumn, despite enormous opposition from the public.
With time now running out, campaign group We Own It is calling on the National Audit Office (NAO) to carry out a ‘Value For Money’ investigation – to prove what we already know: that the privatisation will not benefit the taxpayer.
Justin Madders, Labour’s shadow minister for health, has added his name to a growing list of MPs opposing the sale.
“[NHS Professionals] has saved the taxpayer around £70 million a year. But the government want to privatise it.
“Why? Well, apart from the initial cash from the sale – which is actually going to be less than one year’s savings – it’s difficult to know what the benefit is.
“I can certainly see the downside though, with private agencies typically charging up to 30% more for supply of staff.
This is something that will cost the taxpayer an awful lot more in the long run.”
He added that he had written to the NAO, asking for an investigation in the hope of understanding the motives behind the sale.
Last month, Left Foot Forwarded highlighted how the government is dodging questions, using “commercial confidentiality” as an excuse to withhold information the public has a right to know.
“We are not allowed to even know who is in the running to take over,” Madders said. “It’s just not good enough. We want transparency, we want answers, and we want to stop this unnecessary and potentially harmful privatisation.”
We Own It is urging people to write to their MP and ask them to join Madders in calling on the NAO to investigate.
“The more MPs they hear from, the more likely they are to respond positively to the call,” a spokesperson said.
“An investigation will shed some much needed light on what has been a secretive and ideologically driven sale process.”
This secretive and seemingly irrational sell-off of a key part of the NHS would set a dangerous precedent.
Act now, don’t let them get away with it.
Charlotte England is a freelance journalist. Follow her on Twitter.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.