Clinicians who transferred from the NHS to work in independent treatment centres feel “marooned” and worry about standards of care, according to research.

A study by Nottingham University Business School found some who made the move feared centres placed profit over patient care while others “longed to return” to the NHS.

Researchers carried out in-depth interviews with 35 NHS staff – including nurses and operating department practitioners - relocated to work in two Independent Sector Treatment Centres (ISTCs).

A small number felt they had been “abandoned by the NHS” and a significant proportion - 17 per cent - felt “marooned” and uncomfortable working in an environment they saw as mainly driven by profit.

Others strived to recreate the NHS in their new settings while just 34 per cent saw the move as an opportunity to enhance their careers by taking on new roles, provide better patient care and work more closely with other healthcare professionals.

The findings – originally published in the Sociology of Health and Illness Journal - come amid concern over the government’s NHS reform plan, which pledges to open up the service to “any willing provider”.

Lead researcher Dr Justin Waring said plans involving the blanket transfer of NHS clinicians into the private sector overlooked the “profound implications” for those workers.

“For many the NHS has been their primary place of training and career development. They’ve grown used to certain cultures and managerial practices,” he said.

He said there was a need to find ways of smoothing the transition between sectors as the present approach risked fostering anxiety and resentment.