Two councils have ditched plans to merge their HR departments within an NHS scheme – over fears of breaking EU procurement rules.
The move by Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire county councils to abandon plans to join the NHS Shared Business Services scheme throws into doubt efforts to increase joint working between local government and health authorities.
The two councils had agreed to share back-office functions, including HR, and were set to sign up to the project – a joint venture between the Department of Health and outsourcing provider Xansa. But Stephen Moir, Cambridgeshire’s director of people and policy, said there was a risk the council could have been open to challenges from other suppliers if it tried to use the service.
“We took legal advice on EU procurement directives and [signing up] may have exposed us to risk and challenge,” he said.
The legal hurdle was first raised by Personnel Today a year ago when plans to extend the venture’s current offering to HR emerged. A study of chief executives of primary care trusts by the NHS Confederation – which represents organisations across the health service – last month found far greater potential for partnership working than is happening at present.