The government has been accused of "hiving off" thousands of NHS jobs to the private sector, putting short-term savings ahead of long-term sustainability, a union said.
Unison said encouraging investment from the private sector in the health service's own recruitment agency, NHS Professionals, "makes no sense at all" and will only usher in a return to the days when private agencies were "ripping-off" NHS hospitals.
The angry comments were a reaction to an announcement by the Department of Health that it will be exploring the possibility of private sector involvement in the NHS as it swings the axe at thousands of management jobs within the health service.
Karen Jennings, Head of Health at Unison, said: "The whole reason that NHS Professionals was set up was because private agencies were ripping off hospitals by charging them outrageous fees for recruiting or finding staff for shifts. It makes no sense at all to bring back private companies who will want their slice of the action in return.
"This proposal is purely about Tory plans to promote privatisation and hive off parts of the NHS to private companies, regardless of the consequences on patient care.
"At a time when hospitals are being forced to make huge savings, pushing up staffing costs unnecessarily is very damaging. A sell-off may bring a short-term cash injection, but cost NHS trusts vast sums in the longer term."
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Your comments (terms and conditions apply):
"UNISON hasn't just started bleating about it now [see below comment] – they raised concerns even when Labour were in government. Whether it be PFI deals, treatment centres run by private companies, or the 'partnerships' such as the dermatology service mentioned, UNISON, and other unions, have continually highlighted the issues. It's just that now everything is a higher profile so the media report on it" – Mark, Sussex
"The previous government has been hiking off services to the private sector for years, so not quite sure why Unison have now decided to start a song and dance. In the are where i work several 'private' companies have sprung up, delivering services such as rheumatoid out-of-hours dermatology. You name it and there is probably someone taking a massive cut of the NHS budget to provide it. Like I said it's been going on for years so don't start bleating now Unison" – Nurse, Lancs