Recycle or Waste?

I received a call last week from a client who wanted me to help her out with a small task. The Trust is about to embark on a major consultation which will result in redundancies.

The HR Director wanted me to look over the consultation paperwork to ensure that it was fit for purpose: in otherwords to ensure it captured everything that needed to be said, in the right language, and succinctly. The HR team had already spent some considerable time pulling it together, and due to the importance of this document, the HRD wanted one last person to look over it before it was finalised.

As I reviewed the paperwork, I cross-referenced certain sections with past consultation papers that I have either written or collected (those which I felt were well written & offered something that I might be able to use in the future). I have written scores of consultation papers in the 12 years that I have worked either in or alongside the NHS and I have quite a bank stored on my hard drive.

And yes, the NHS has been opening and closing wards, reconfiguring services, making people redundant for this whole period….just not at the scale it is at present.

And that’s when it hit me. For years I’ve been recycling the same old document. Each time I get it out, I dust it down by making sure it’s relevant to that particular change programme and is up to date with current legislation.

But the fact is that there are 100s, maybe even thousands of other HR professionals in the Trusts across the country doing exactly the same thing. We’re all investing a lot of time developing bespoke and individual consultation documents for what is essentially a generic document.

Is this the tip of the iceberg? How many other generic documents are being developed and adapted locally? Has the NHS generated a cottage industry in HR documentation?

I’m not sure that I’d support centralisation, but surely there must be some way to bring efficiencies into the system. And for once, I don’t have the answer to this particular problem. Do you?

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One comment on “Recycle or Waste?

  1. vincelammas says:

    When I attended a workforce forum event last year a very smart HRD and newcomer to the NHS commented on this very thing – highlighting the waste and duplication inherent in the current approach to employee administration in the NHS.

    Trusts work separately on their own written statements of terms and conditions, interpretations of agenda for change, writing job descriptions, evaluating jobs, writing consultation papers, etc.

    While the NHS sharees a common IT platform for employment matters (ESR) and most terms and conditions (Agenda for Change) they are still not even “associated employers” …. and the changes planned for the NHS will enhance the “local feel” of NHS organisations rather than bringing them together.

    As I ponted out in my article http://www.attractorconsulting.com/2010/08/working-in-a-denationalised-health-service/, in a time when services can be delivered by “any willing provider”, “NHS” will denote standards of service rather than commonality of organisation and management.

    There would certainly be gains in efficiency and financial savings available from joining together to work on such issues … though there would also be some negative impacts. The question is whether there is sufficient common ground to make it work.

    Michael Portillo makes the point the government is intentionally plans to break the NHS into smaller, more autonomous – more flexible, responsive and innovative parts.

    In an increasingly diverse environment, it will be interesting to see whether the NHS moves back towards “workforce development confederations” or forward to shared services solutions in the light of financial pressures. The alternative is that we continue to recycle our waste even more!

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