IT contractors could be about to see a surge of new opportunities in the NHS, reports suggest.

Friday 10 May 2013

The public sector has always provided contractors with a wide range of opportunities. Because successive governments have funded such a huge variety of projects which cross industries and require a wide range of skills there has been no shortage of assignments for freelance workers - especially in difficult economic times when authorities have found it difficult to commit to permanent staff.

While it may be one of the world's largest employers, the NHS has always had skills gaps that it has asked contractors to fill. Although budget cuts may have cut short some projects that would have offered opportunities for flexible workers, it seems that the slowdown in NHS contracts may be about to pick up - at least in the IT sector, where figures suggest that the health service is looking to freelancers once more.

A survey by Twenty Recruitment has found that almost two out of three NHS trusts planned to hire contract or interim workers for their upcoming IT projects. The remaining third planned to use in-house staff, using the funds available to them to invest in training their existing workers.

Although funds are tight for the health service, it is willing to invest in important technology projects, with seven out of ten saying that IT would be their top priority for the year ahead. This is perhaps unsurprising, since NHS trusts handle huge amounts of highly sensitive and confidential information which puts security at a premium.

Major projects such as the movement of all medical records into a computerised format have the potential to transform the way the NHS works. After years of controversy over failed IT projects which went massively over-budget and never materialised, there is real pressure to deliver which is driving decision makers to search for the best IT talent, both within and outside of their organisations.

Twenty Recruitment is not the only voice heralding a new wave of opportunity within the health service. Writing for Contractor UK Don Tomlinson, managing director of recruiting firm max20, has pointed out that the beginning of April saw a huge shake-up of NHS administration as primary care trusts were replaced with clinical commissioning groups and commissioning support units. Implementing this massive organisational change requires a huge amount of work, which will mean a large number of new IT vacancies.

As the government expects the health service to take a more commercial approach to its operations, Mr Tomlinson said, efficiency and integration would be key. A survey conducted near the end of the financial year by max20 had found that nearly half the IT contractors working in the NHS had been attracted by the wide scope and scale of the projects available.

Twenty Recruitment explains that media misery does not necessarily reflect the full picture of hiring in the NHS.

“Many of the headlines in recent months have been around job cuts and downsizing in the public sector”, the agency said. “But it seems the war for talent – particularly from a technology perspective – is firmly back on the agenda.”


By Victoria McDonnell

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