Recently, some unions have been critical of recruitment agencies that supply staff to hospitals. They have claimed that these recruitment agencies have been charging exorbitant fees. Unison’s Head of Health, Karen Jennings, stated her belief that private companies should not be invited to invest in the National Health Service. Her argument was that the reason managed flexible services provider, NHS Professionals, is in existence was in order to counteract the issue of hospitals being ripped off and effectively held to ransom by the outrageous fees charged to hospitals by recruitment agencies.

NHS Professionals actually has approximately 50,000 individuals on its books and therefore ranks amongst the largest temporary worker suppliers in the UK. On an average year NHS Professionals successfully fills more than 2 million shifts.

However, on the other side of the argument, medical recruitment specialists Healthcare Locums commented through a spokesperson who said that the NHS Professional data supplied by Unison was misleading. They said that, actually, NHS Professionals has been far from successful, having lost £100m of public funds. They said this figure considerably outweighs profits made by even the largest and most successful medical recruitment agencies.

This opinion is seemingly backed up by independent research, which shows that a doctor recruited through a private agency costs on average £4500 less than an equivalent doctor recruited through NHS Professionals.

The REC have responded by reinforcing the need for flexible staff within the healthcare sector. They also believe that the government asking for private sector involvement shows a commitment to this model. The REC also support sale of NHS Professionals as announced by the Department of Health. Any prospective investors from the private sector have a deadline of August 27th to register their interest.

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