Good human resources policies influence NHS patient care

Health service human resources professionals need to step outside their comfort zones and learn how to evaluate their policies’ effect on patient care, an in-depth study suggests.

A report by the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) said HR staff would soon be moving into new areas of activity.

The report is based on research into the impact of people management policies in the NHS. It found that improved appraisal processes contributed the most to lower patient mortality rates and improved staff performance.

The report called for changes in the role of HR, including a more holistic approach to training, workforce planning and organisational development, higher skill levels in job analysis, job redesign and the evaluation of HR initiatives.

The report’s author, Linda Miller, said: “HR professionals will need to be able to demonstrate how changes to working arrangements impact on indicators such as bed occupancy or mortality rates, or rates of hospital-acquired infections.”

A damning report by the parliamentary Health Select Committee, published in April, said NHS workforce planning had been “a disastrous failure”, leaving the service with too few people with the skills to do the tasks.

Alex O’Grady, executive director of the Healthcare People Management Association, said HR professionals had already gone a long way in challenging traditional practices, but further work needed to be done.

Sian Thomas, deputy director at NHS Employers, acknowledged that technical skills in areas such as workforce planning were important, but said HR professionals also had to focus on transforming organisational culture.

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