The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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British health jobs head to India
- Union taken aback by NHS outsourcing announcement

London, Feb. 9: Many more clerical jobs from the National Health Service of the UK, mainly related to pay roll, are to be outsourced to India, a spokeswoman for Britain’s department of health confirmed today.

She said the outsourcing was being done by a joint venture undertaking which the NHS set up in 2004 with a company called Xansa.

The number of additional jobs that could be done in India is not known but may run into hundreds.

In the last couple of years, 142 NHS Trusts, which run Britain’s hospitals, had “signed up” with Xansa and were getting part of their clerical work done in India.

By April, 2008, it was estimated that the number of NHS Trusts signed up with Xansa would rise to about 200 and all would be eligible to get their clerical work shifted to India.

But confidential patients’ notes would not be done in India, the spokeswoman emphasised.

She was unable to comment on a statement by Peter Coates, deputy director of finance at the department of health, that “as many as two thirds of NHS accounting and finance functions would be outsourced, with much of the work being done in India”.

According to The Times of London today, Coates told a conference in Mumbai: “I recently gave permission to outsource 60 per cent of the work to India. It could go higher, but the constraint is that we cannot move jobs to India at the expense of shedding jobs in the UK. Politics will be an important factor.”

The department of health spokeswoman told The Telegraph: “More trusts being able to sign up to use the NHS shared business services is good news for the NHS. Streamlining back office functions such as finance, payroll and HR reduces bureaucracy and generates substantial savings for reinvestment in frontline services and patient care.”

She explained: “The department entered into a 50/50 joint venture partnership with Xansa to provide shared services to the NHS through a private company called NHS SBS. Unison (the NHS staff union) was included on the project board and consulted on the setting up of shared services. They were aware that work could be offshored to India.”

But she added that by April 2007, NHS SBS will have 142 clients on board for finance and accounting services and it has already expanded into other areas such as payroll and e-procurement.

“This increase should not have any effect on existing staff. It is the businesses intention to accommodate greater offshoring through greater business volume,” she said.

But The Times said Unison was “taken aback by the announcement”.

“It is extraordinary that the NHS is making major announcements of this sort abroad when it should be talking to staff here first,” Karen Jennings, head of health, was quoted as telling the paper. “We obviously want to get more details because we would be very concerned if more jobs were threatened.”

The paper speculated that that “other government departments, encouraged by the Prime Minister, are considering following suit to exploit India’s cheap, highly skilled, English-speaking labour force in a move that has angered trade unions”.

It quoted Coates as telling his Indian audience: “I firmly believe this model will be used elsewhere in the government to deliver services.”

Alistair Cox, chief executive of Xansa, admitted to The Times that offshoring was an emotive subject. “Delivering public service work from outside the UK is sensitive,” he said. “But we are talking about sending people to have operations in France so what’s wrong with processing someone’s invoice in India' People will be displaced by globalisation – we have to get our heads around that.”

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