The Scottish Government's decision to ban private contractors from tendering for any new work at hospitals threatens thousands of jobs, a leading industry body has warned.
The new guidance, issued to hospitals in Scotland this week, forbids private contractors from bidding for any new catering or cleaning work within the NHS.
Scottish Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon claimed bringing services in-house was the only effective way to reduce super bug infection rates at Scotland's hospitals.
But Mark Fox, chief executive of the Business Services Association (BSA), which represents contractors, described the decision as "damaging" and one that would undermine the efficiency of the NHS in Scotland and its ability to deliver value for money services.
"This move threatens thousands of jobs and is a serious blow to job creation in Scotland," he added.
Food service consultant Julian Fris was more positive but questioned the long-term viability of the move.
"In principle a brave decision, which I suspect has come out of frustration with inconsistent quality received from contract service providers and the Trusts' inability to effect change particularly in public/private partnerships," he said.
"In the short-term, this initiative will win the ‘hearts and minds' of patients and hospital staff alike. In the longer run, I'm not convinced that they will be able to effectively contain costs and maintain standards."
The move was welcomed by the GMB union, which said both the workforce and general public in Scotland had consistently argued against the privatisation of soft services within the NHS.
Existing contracts for the provision of services are not affected by this guidance. Last year Scotland spent £46m on catering at its 64 general hospitals, although this figure included both public and private caterers.
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By Chris Druce
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