NHS deal unit relies on temporary staff

2 November 2006
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02 November 2006 | Helen Gilbert

The sustainability of the government department responsible for negotiating a £3.7 billion-a-year NHS outsourcing deal has been questioned after SM learnt it relies on temporary staff.

Of the 230 people working in the Commercial Directorate (CD), SM understands fewer than 10 are permanent civil servants. The rest are interims and consultants for whom minimum daily rates stand at £950 for an associate and more than £2,000 for a partner.

A CD spokesman said he did not recognise the figures, but was unable to provide a breakdown of the numbers of permanent and temporary staff in the department.

A DH spokesman confirmed the CD spent £67 million on consultants and contractors for the year 2004-5. He said the unit was set up specifically to bring in commercial skills the DH did not already possess.

"The CD uses contractors on a short-term basis to access skills to drive value for money in health procurement and other efficiency programmes."

Dr Paul Miller, former chair of the British Medical Association's consultants committee said the health service is best run by people that understand the NHS. "If these people are on temporary, short term contracts where is the continuity?" he said.

In our feature on page 20 concerns have also been raised about the DHL deal and its capacity to procure £3.7 billion of products and services.

But Dave Bennett, acting procurement director of NHS Supply Chain, the new procurement service, said only contracts for £1.6 billion of products will be procured in the early stages and, if successful, resources would be expanded.

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