NHS cannot avoid the Internet age for ever

The NHS is a vast and sometimes cumbersome organisation that regularly defies all attemps to manange it – to the frustration of staff, patients and politicians. It is a fact that will doubtless occur to health service HR professionals this week as they read about plans to introduce a single web site advertising every single NHS vacancy.

The project is nothing if not ambitious. The NHS remains the largest employer in Europe, with a massive number of annual vacancies and an advertising recruitment bill to match. It must make sense to try to reduce both the cost of filling vacancies and the time spent on the endless paperwork involved.

But the news comes at a time of growing doubts about e-recruitment. The image of recruitment web sites was tarnished recently by a report claiming the majority of sites repeatedly advertise the same job, quote inflated salaries, with many also making unsubstantiated claims about the security of personal information.

Some HR professionals in the health service are also mindful of the fact that many employees are unfamiliar with the Internet, even feeling hostile towards it. They are wary of attempts to move recruitment entirely on-line – at least for the foreseeable future. Traditional recruitment advertising methods, it appears, are a long way from being knocked from their perch.

So why bother? And what’s in it for health service HR practitioners? There will undoubtedly be big savings in both time and money to putting recruitment on-line. According to one HR director, filling one junior doctor’s post can involve sending each applicant’s CV to up to 15 different people involved in the short-listing process. The new system could deliver those CVs at the touch of a button.

But the proposed changes are about more than simply cutting down on paperwork and speeding up the recruitment process, important as these things are. It is about dragging the NHS into the 21st century and being seen to be a modern service.

The Internet has transformed almost every sphere of 21st century life. The NHS cannot hide from that fact. Internet recruitment may have its drawbacks, but the potential benefits are simply too great for the NHS to be left behind in the Internet revolution.

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