NHS workers facing redundancy should be guaranteed another job in the health service, according to NHS human resources chief Clare Chapman.
Thousands of staff have left the health service in the past 18 months, with hospital trusts tightening their belts following budget squeezes.
The tight conditions are set to continue – even though the NHS secured a 4% annual budget increase for the next three years in the Comprehensive Spending Review, this is 3% lower than annual rises of the past seven years.
Speaking at the NHS Employers annual conference in Birmingham last week, workforce director-general Chapman said retraining and retaining staff during organisational upheaval was a big challenge for the future.
Responding to a question on maintaining staff motivation during times of change, she said: “A challenge for employers will be ensuring workforce flexibility, and not losing people from the service.”
Chapman said that when she was group personnel director at Tesco, there was a commitment from management that anyone who wanted to stay with the company after their job was made redundant could do so.
“There is a germ of an idea there [for the NHS] and employers have to ask: Can we provide the opportunities to do that?” she said. “The opportunity for people to get on is very important and builds commitment, and is something that [the NHS] must get better at.”
Health service unions welcomed Chapman’s comments. Sharon Holder, national officer for public services at the GMB, which represents some of the lowest-paid staff in the NHS, said the union had long complained that training for non-professional staff was inadequate.
“Imagine the level of commitment from staff who were trained up and supported in other roles it would be phenomenal,” she told Personnel Today.
Mike Jackson, senior national officer at Unison – which has 450,000 NHS members – welcomed the emphasis on finding alternative work for employees, as long it was suitable.
How many times did Chapman mention key words in her speech?
NHS EMPLOYERS conference quotes
“People are the most important part of the NHS, and when you reform too quickly, the consequences can be painful.” Steve Barnett, director, NHS Employers
“How clear are you in what you stand for? I joined the NHS because I wanted to lead something that was important to me.” Clare Chapman, workforce director-general, NHS
“The NHS needs to be much more systematic in the way it spots talent and nurtures it. [It] has to start preparing people for the top jobs.” David Nicholson, NHS chief executive