Council push to sell care

Local authority wants law changed to enable it to sell its OH services to
small-and medium-sized firms

Nottinghamshire County Council is pressing for a change in the law to allow
it to sell its OH services to local businesses.

Personnel director Terry Gorman said there is strong demand from small- and
medium-sized enterprises, which cannot afford their own OH department, to buy
the service from the council.

"We cannot do work in the private sector," said Gorman. "We
have a first-rate OH service; we have been asked to provide that service to
parts of the private sector, but we cannot."

Gorman is using his position as new president of the local government
personnel managers’ body Socpo to press for a clause in the current Local Government
Bill to permit such trading. This would bring councils into line with NHS
trusts, many of which are providers of outsourced OH services to the private
sector.

His call comes as Health Secretary Alan Milburn put pressure on more NHS
trust OH departments to sell their services to local employers (see right).

The RCN’s OH adviser Carol Bannister said Nottinghamshire council could
learn from the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham. "They have a huge
number of contracts but they have always increased the number of staff. If they
get a new contract, they get a new nurse."

Pressure for change in local councils comes from the Best Value scheme,
under which they must provide better value for money than the private sector.
Socpo argues that it is unfair competition as the private providers can take
local authority business, but not vice versa.

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