In recent weeks I have been contacted by many constituents about the privatisation of NHS Professionals.
NHS professionals provides a "bank" of staff who work flexibly across the health service. It is used by over 65 NHS trusts in England and saves the NHS money by supplying staff more cheaply than private sector agencies.
The Government is currently in the process of selling over 70% of NHS Professionals to a private company. I share my constituents disappointment that this Conservative Government has chosen to sell off such a large stake in an organisation that saves the NHS approximately £70 million per year.
The NHS is under unprecedented financial pressure and is struggling to cope with excessive sums being spent on agency staff. According to figures from the NHS Institute, £3.64bn was spent on agency and contract staff in 2015-16. The Government believes that NHS Professionals requires significant investment to enable it to expand, so it can deliver improved services to NHS trusts and reduce the reliance on agency staff.
I believe that if the Government treated NHS staff with the respect they deserved, there might not be such a need to rely on agency staff in the first place. At the last election, I stood on a manifesto that committed to reversing the privatisation of our NHS and return our health service to expert public control.
I am pleased that Labour is calling on the National Audit Office (NAO) to look into the Government's sale of NHS Professionals to better understand what the private sector can bring to what, on the face of it, is already a successful organisation.
The Government is currently in negotiation with several private companies who are bidding for the majority stake in NHS Professionals. Please be assured I will follow this issue closely and will continue to press the Government to put patients before profit.