Last week’s news story about the decentralisation of NHS human resources work (NHS HR outsourcing plans fall down after ‘wobble’ in market, Personnel Today 5 February) flags up one of the major worries about public sector outsourcing – particularly of the HR function, but also of everything and anything else.
NHS HR staff may well breathe a sigh of relief, but what if the realisation that decentralising the function was the best move had dawned on NHS Employers a month or two later, when they might have passed the point of no return and already signed-up huge swathes of the nation’s healthcare HR services to five- or 10-year deals with major suppliers?
Other public sector services have already gone down that route (particularly IT services) with people finding that the job they chose – often taking a lower salary in exchange for job security and a decent pension in a structured career – has been transferred to a much more competitive, market-orientated private company, where TUPE protection is their only compensation.
The concept of public service may be seen as a bit old-fashioned and undynamic, perhaps – particularly by high-fliers parachuted in to the top jobs by politicians, or co-opted as short-term go-getters on the recommendation of expensive consultants. But public service is still the reason why many employees at the grass roots work in the public sector. If that attitude is not reflected in the HR teams, the effectiveness of people management in the public sector will suffer.