Former Tesco HR chief Clare Chapman relishes NHS challenge as she meets her people

NHS Employers workforce productivity conference, 13 March, Novotel, London: Clare Chapman, new director-general of workforce at the NHS, sets out her stall for the future of HR in the health service.

Clare Chapman, new director-general of workforce at the Department of Health, has spoken exclusively to Personnel Today about her “great decision” to take the high-pressure job.

“It is a very important time for the NHS. With the amount of change that is going on, the need to involve staff to make sure we improve life for patients and the public is critical,” she said.

Chapman had just made her first public speech since taking the £200,000-plus job as head of Europe’s biggest workforce – more than 1.3 million employees.

She told Personnel Today that she moved to the NHS in January from her previous job as group personnel director at Tesco “because of the size and scale of the difference you can make in the public sector”. She said the challenge for her first year was “being clear what matters to staff and patients, and involving staff in improving life for the public”.

The speech drew a rapturous response at the NHS Employers conference in London last week. She told delegates there were many similarities between the private and public sectors, and several lessons she had learned in her time at Tesco could be applied in the NHS.

Understanding what staff wanted was vital to solving key problems such as improving productivity, she said.

“Creating value is dependent on satisfying customers, ensuring staff are well managed and involved, and controlling costs,” she said.

Her debut speech was highly spoken of by HR professionals afterwards (see comments, left).

How Chapman’s debut speech went down with the audience

Michelle Ashworth
Divisional governance lead for medicine, East Lancashire Trust

“I think she was excellent. I love to hear how we can use the private sector experience.”

Manjit Darby
Acting director, East Midlands Healthcare Workforce Deanery

“She was inspirational – although there was a bit too much Tesco.”

Liz Edelman
Associate director of HR, Redbridge Primary Care Trust

“It was very good as it related to staff from the bottom up. People will take the message more seriously coming from such a good figurehead.”

Jackie Hewlett-Davies
Workforce development network manager, Health and Social Care Workforce Team

“She will be very inspiring – but I agree there was too much Tesco.”

Vicki Hing
Head of learning and organisational development, Derby Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

“I liked the Tesco stuff. We are obsessed with the NHS being different – I liked the fact she gave a private sector view.”

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