A group of financial investors and healthcare groups have submitted bids with the intention of acquiring control of NHS Professionals.
The staffing agency currently supplies around 90,000 doctors and nurses to hospitals located throughout the United Kingdom.
Advisors to the Department of Health have already requested groups to lodge proposals to buy a majority stake in NHS Professionals.
This move is the latest attempt to semi-privatise the staffing agency, after a previous effort was aborted.
NHS England has recently warned about cost savings required by the NHS, and this new attempt to at least partially privatise NHS Professionals is symptomatic of this climate.
Insiders believe that parties including Hays, the recruitment agency, Healthcare Locums and Serco, the outsourcing giant, are interested in the bidding process.
Financial investors such as Aurelius Equity Opportunities, which has backed British companies such as Allied Healthcare, are also expected to submit offers.
The value of the contract is thought to be around £50 million, although this is significantly less than the Department of Health was hoping to raise.
In a written statement last November, the health minister Philip Dunne had outlined in the ethos behind this new initiative.
“The Department of Health has concluded that the company requires significant investment to enable it to expand, so it can deliver improved services to even more NHS trusts and reduce their reliance on expensive agency staff – the bill for which is currently £3bn annually, which diverts resources that could be better used for substantive staffing and improved patient care.”
Currently, NHS Professionals works with just over 50 NHS trusts, which is approximately one-quarter of the total number.
However, Jeremy Hunt had previously signalled his intention for this figure to increase further still.
Meanwhile, sources close to the government believe that around 70% of NHS Professionals may be sold off, with the governments retaining a minority stake in the organisation.
Ministers would have “the right to take back ownership of the company in the event of any serious breach of the agreed main objectives,” Dunne had stated last year.
The accountancy firm Deloitte is involved in the sales procedure for NHS Professionals, despite previous arguments on the corporation tendering for new government contracts.
There have been previous attempts to discuss the future of the organisation and possibly initiate such a partial privatisation, but a consultation in 2010 failed to advance to a formal sale procedure.