The PCG’s senior policy adviser, Andy Chamberlain, has warned that critical IT projects in the NHS may be under threat due to a lack of clarity about the status of ‘off-payroll’ IT experts contracting in the public sector.
Citing new research from the staffing company Twenty Recruitment, Mr Chamberlain highlighted findings suggesting that 70% of NHS trusts consider IT as their top priority for 2013/14 and 65% plan to use interims and contractors to staff these projects. Mr Chamberlain states: “When it comes to project work, contractors are often the quickest and most cost effective solution.”
The NHS, he notes, handles vast amounts of sensitive data – a fact that requires a sound and efficient IT infrastructure.
Mr Chamberlain cautions, however, that the uncertainty over off-payroll remuneration arrangements threatens to make it extremely difficult for NHS departments to engage contractors with confidence. He continued: “No one wants a system that is open to abuse, either by engagers or individuals who should be firmly on the payroll. At the same time, if a sensible solution to the current mess isn’t found soon, there is a real risk that NHS trusts will not have access to the resource they need to complete critical IT projects.”
He urged the Treasury to acknowledge the problems the new rules were causing and provide clear guidance to ensure that vital public services were safely delivered.
A potential solution overlooked by Mr Chamberlain is staring NHS hirers in the face: hire IT experts who work as Umbrella Company Employees. This way, no media scandals about tax dodging will arise, and no confusion will exist about tax deductions being made transparently and honestly.