Clare Chapman, NHS workforce director-general, says staff engagement is key to health service culture change

New NHS workforce director-general Clare Chapman has pledged to change the culture of the health service by engaging more with frontline staff.

Chapman, who officially started work last month, was speaking to MPs on the Health Select Committee as part of an inquiry into workforce planning in the NHS.

In her first public engagement in her new role, she said: “If what you are striving for is efficiency [in the NHS], then I am absolutely sure [an important piece] is about engaging staff. Inevitably, the people who know how to redesign the NHS so that it is most efficient are the staff themselves.

“As part of the leadership challenge, I am completely sure that engaging staff to find those efficiencies is absolutely the right way to get at them fast.”

Chapman will also be focusing on identifying individuals who can be developed into managers.

“One would assume that among more than one million people [that work for the NHS] there are some extraordinarily good managers or people who have got the capability to be good managers,” she told the committee.

“The issue is spotting them. It is also pretty critical to make sure that it becomes a priority not just to engage staff, but also to do some very active talent-spotting.”

Health minister Lord Hunt signalled the government’s intention to bring in more private sector expertise into senior NHS roles.

“I very much welcome people from other fields coming in. Clare Chapman’s appointment is an excellent example of that and [the NHS] wants to see more of that happen,” he said.

Chapman was previously group personnel director at retail giant Tesco.

A final report on workforce planning, with recommendations from the committee, is due to be published in the spring. 

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