Austin Mitchell MP has put a number of questions to the Department of Health on behalf of the Periodical Publishers Association, which is concerned about the Government’s proposed NHS electronic recruitment project.
The Government is planning to create a central NHS website that will carry job ads and information on the public services in direct competition with thousands of B2B titles.
Some 2,500 UK business and professional titles are involved in the public sector, many of which rely on advertising.
If the scheme goes ahead, titles such as Community Care, Nursing Times and Nature may have to find alternative sources of income or face closure.
Following a meeting with the PPA, Mitchell tabled a series of questions, demanding further information and clarification on the publishers’ concerns.
The main issue was the transparency of the costs involved in running public sector recruitment sites.
The possibility of pressing for a code of competitiveness to benchmark good practice by government departments was also raised.
PPA chief executive Ian Locks has expressed doubts that the Government site would be able to compete with magazine websites, which are costly and require a great deal of expertise.
Meanwhile the Government has stated the health authorities would not be forced to advertise on the site and would be able to spend their budgets as they wish.
There is still doubt among publishers, however, that readers would want to search for jobs on a government website, given that 40 per cent of health professionals have no access to the internet outside work and often look to the magazines for specialist knowledge on issues such as salaries.
By Ruth Addicott