An international private equity firm has bought up a UK-based agency that employs NHS doctors and nurses outside their contracted hours – to do “insourcing” work in NHS hospitals, reports the Financial Times.

The agency, Birmingham-based Medinet, claims to help NHS organisations reduce waiting times, but NHS England “strongly discourages” the use of insourcing because it “doesn’t provide any additional staff,” but increases costs.  Its guidance states

“NHS England and NHS Improvement strongly discourage the use of insourcing solutions where temporary workers are paid escalated rates and where approved frameworks are not used. 

“The reason for this is because it often does not provide access to additional workforce, rather escalated pay rates attract workers from elsewhere. This reduces the supply of agency workers available to fill shifts elsewhere in the trust and wider health system, and has a ripple effect on general agency rates, as it raises the pay expectations of agency workers, and forces other departments and trusts to increase their rates to attract their workers back.”

Of course the fact that there is a market for Medinet and around 20 other organisations offering staff for “insourcing” flows from chronic staff shortages in the NHS, and the failure of NHS England’s price caps (which don’t appear to have changed since 2020) to offer attractive rates for overtime and bank working. Private equity firms have been scenting quick profits to be made.

The FT reports the results of freedom of information requests by consultancy Candesic that show the NHS spent £55m in 2022 employing its own staff to do extra work through specialist agencies. And while this total was down from £62m the previous year, Medinet’s income of almost £59m last year was a 93% increase on the previous year.

The agency was bought up for an undisclosed sum by Fremman Capital, while another insourcing firm 18 Week Support, was bought last year by US private equity firm Summit Partners.

Private equity targets short term profits: the fact they are nosing round this sector shows these profiteers are banking on continuing failure of government and NHS trust bosses to resolve their staff shortages.

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