In-house human resources may have no future in the NHS, a management expert has claimed.

Anthony Hesketh, senior lecturer in management learning and leadership at Lancaster University, issued the warning at the NHS Employers conference.

He said: 'We should challenge the view that public sector HR can only be provided within the public sector. There are third-party providers.

'The HR function is paramount, but it's about who delivers it. We could move HR out of the NHS.'

There would still be HR directors on trust boards in 10 years, he suggested, but their job would be 'unrecognisable'.

NHS Employers director Steve Barnett agreed it was often sensible to outsource administrative functions - but said there was a question mark over whether more complex tasks should be provided outside the NHS.

'The area to be considered is the broader stuff that could be done by anyone with the right skills and motivation,' he said.

'Nurturing talent doesn't require a badge of HR expertise, but HR professionals are best placed to do these things due to their knowledge of the business.'

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