Public sector recruitment: HR’s top job?

One of the biggest HR jobs in the public sector is up for grabs after Andrew Foster’s decision to resign as workforce director at the Department of Health (DoH).

But there are doubts about whether quality candidates will come forward, particularly from the private sector, because of the relatively low salary and the constant media focus on Europe’s largest employer – the NHS.

Foster will leave the DoH in June after five years to become HR director at Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre Hospitals NHS Trust.

The DoH is looking to replace him with someone who has a “demonstrable track record of delivery, the ability to make a personal impact and exceptional leadership skills”, according to its job advertisement.

The DoH is also keen to attract candidates from outside the NHS, asking for chief executive or HR director experience “within a major organisation”.

The role pays up to £130,000, with more for an “exceptional candidate” – only slightly more than the average private sector HR chief salary of £113,390, according to HR consultancy Mercer.

An HR director working in a financial services company can expect to earn upwards of 250,000, which can rise to more than 350,000 for FTSE 100 firms, recruitment experts said. The salary is also dwarfed by the 250,000 earned by Richard Granger, head of the NHS ‘Connecting for Health’ IT programme.

However, Mark Brewer, partner at Frazer Jones recruitment consultancy, said candidates would not just be thinking about the money.

“The candidate would be doing the job partly because of the influence and impact they could have,” he said. “Candidates could earn a lot more working elsewhere.”

The HR department at the DoH would not comment on the number of applications it had received for the job so far.

Who’s in the running?

Steve Barnett: A strong candidate, Barnett has been director of NHS Employers since January 2005. Joined from the Home Office where he was senior director of HR in the Immigration and Nationality Directorate. But may be reluctant to leave after only 16 months.

Stan Thomas: Thomas joined NHS Employers on a two-year secondment in December as joint deputy director. Was 2004 Healthcare People Management Association’s HR director of the year and could go the distance.

David Amos: Amos is Foster’s former deputy who resigned his post in 2004 to become workforce director at University College London Hospitals Trust. Extensive HR experience in the NHS and knows how to clear difficult hurdles.


Nic Greenfield: Greenfield is Foster’s current deputy at the DoH and is likely to act up when Foster leaves. He joined in August 2004 and was previously HR director at North Central London Strategic Health Authority. Foster said Greenfield had a “wealth of experience in workforce and HR from within the NHS”. Clear front-runner, but can he hold onto the lead?

Other contenders



  • Mike Pyrah, chief executive, Central Cheshire Primary Care Trust
  • John Rostill, chief executive, Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust
  • Alastair Henderston, joint deputy director, NHS Employers
  • Dean Royles, head of HR cpacity and employment, DoH





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