HR targets in the NHS to be tied to funding

The performance of health service HR departments will in future be linked to how much funding their trusts receive, the Government has announced.

Under the NHS HR performance framework for the health service, launched last week, NHS employers will be set regional targets for vacancy rates, staff turnover and number of staff returning to employment after career breaks. HR departments will also have to involve staff in decisions and conduct annual staff attitude surveys.

Trusts and other NHS organisations will have to prove they have met these targets and a wide range of other criteria by 2003 as part of a new Improving Working Lives standard.

The new standard says, “The way NHS employers treat staff will in future be part of the core performance measures and linked to the financial resources they receive.”

The HR plans are part of an overall performance system set out in the NHS Plan launched in July, which allows for funds to be withheld from poorly performing NHS organisations until they meet targets.

HR leaders have welcomed the raised profile of HR issues within the health service but are concerned that struggling organisations could get a raw deal.

John Adsett, head of project management at Basildon and Thurrock NHS Trust said, “I welcome the move as long as it encourages inclusion – if it rewards trusts that are performing well I can see this as being very positive.

“But it can be hard to judge one NHS Trust against another because there can be all sorts of reasons why one trust performs better than another, such as geographical location.”

The performance framework puts a high priority on issues such as flexible working and childcare as a means of attracting and retaining staff.

Every trust will receive £25,000 this year towards improving the working environment.

Sally Storey, HR director of Bournewood Community and Mental Health NHS Trust, welcomed the performance plans.

“The staff surveys will demonstrate whether people are pleased to be working within the trust. If it gives a low rating for satisfaction then it shows there is work to do,” she said.

By Richard Staines

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