Health chiefs agree deals worth £1million to help civil servants continue working from home

HEALTH chiefs have agreed deals worth up to £1million to help civil servants keep working from home despite a push to get workers back in the office.

One deal agreed by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) could last for another four years, despite pressure from MPs to end the practice.

Health chiefs agree deals worth £1million to help civil servants continue working from home
MP Craig Mackinlay says it is ‘worrying’ that more working from home is being encouraged by the Department of Health and Social Care

Bosses are buying £316,000 worth of desks, chairs and computer equipment for two years, but contract details show there are provisions to double this to £632,000 for an extra 24 months.

DHSC staff only moved to newly refurbished offices, complete with a restaurant, conference facilities, meeting rooms, IT rooms, and new carpeting in central London in 2017.

Separately the NHS Commissioning Board revealed it agreed to buy staff furniture to work from home for between £200,000 and £400,000.

Contact details said it was for ‘supply, delivery and installation’ of furniture to ‘support home working’ and ‘the supplier will deliver direct to end user homes’ within five days of ordering.

The new deals emerged after it was revealed last week the Department for Levelling Up had agreed a £200,000 deal to get 32 desks and chairs a month delivered to the homes of new staff who join the department.

MPs said work from home had resulted in poorer productivity and the trend should be reversed not encouraged.

MP Craig Mackinlay said: “New equipment to be installed at civil servants’ homes is both worrying and disappointing.

“The flow should be in the other direction as we’re seeing in the private sector.

“It has become obvious that WFH has resulted in poorer productivity: the waiting times for call answering and action when dealing with any government department has worsened, not improved, upon the shift to seemingly permanent out of office working.”

Nearly a third of desks at the DHSC Whitehall headquarters remain unused after the Government ordered workers to stay at home in the lockdown more than three years ago, the most recent figures show.

The department employees more than 3,000 workers with around a third of these attached to the Whitehall HQ.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Over the past two years, the Civil Service has had to work in a more agile way, while still delivering essential public services.

“Before the pandemic, most departments worked on a basis of a ratio of desks to staff and that remains the case – therefore hybrid working arrangements are not new.

“We embrace flexible working and have set an expectation of working eight days in the office per month and days are agreed across teams.”

An NHS spokesperson said: “The vast majority of NHS staff are obviously based in clinical settings or in the office.

“They also often have to work at short notice out of hours or over the weekend to respond to incidents such as cyber-attacks, terrorist incidents and strikes from home.”

Last year, then minister for Government efficiency, Jacob Rees-Mogg urged workers to get back to their desks saying the work from home culture had to end.

Unions have been accused of hampering efforts to get staff to end WFH by pushing for further concessions.

Last year Prospect Union said civil servants could be allowed to tailor their work around “life events” such as the school run.

Earlier this month it emerged that a record 2.5 million are off work with long-term sickness, with many complaining that working from home had given them a bad back.

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