The government is seriously looking at the possibility of spinning off NHS Plus from the health service and turning it into a stand-alone, not-for-profit organisation, Occupational Health has learned.
Up to now NHS Plus – through which NHS OH departments offer advice and services to the commercial sector – has been part and parcel of the health service.
But it is now understood that the government, as part of its twin drives to get people off incapacity benefit back into work, and help smaller businesses reduce absence, is looking at how NHS Plus could be made to have more of an impact.
Debate has been going on for some time within government circles about how to make better use of the OH expertise and resources within the NHS.
In September, NHS Plus director, Kit Harling, revealed that the NHS’s OH departments could be merged into 10 or 12 regional units, better to concentrate expertise and improve career development and access to funding.
The latest move would be a step on from this and, while details are still scant, ministers are understood to have pencilled in July as possible date for the switch over.
Employees would be transferred over to the not-for-profit company, of which the secretary of state would be the sole shareholder, under their existing NHS terms and conditions.