Over the last few weeks I’ve been finishing up a number of contracts. And for some reason, I seem to keep finding myself having a “groundhog day” conversation mainly with my colleagues in the acute sector.
Colleague: “So how’s the freelance market?”
Me: “It’s good, but it’s going to be interesting to see what happens once the redundancies in the PCT start to have an impact.”
Colleague: “I wouldn’t worry about that……HR staff in PCTs haven’t got the breadth and experience as those who have worked in acute Trusts.”
Me: “I don’t believe that. Don’t forget, I spent 5 years working in a PCT before I went freelance”.
Colleague: “Yes, but you’re different, you’ve also worked in the acute sector.”
Me: “So have a lot of HR professionals currently working in PCTs…..”
Colleague: “Yes, but, it’s not the same, is it? The HR professionals working in PCTS today just don’t …….”
And that’s when I realised I wouldn’t be able to change their views and steered the conversation onto a related subject.
I have been fortunate enough to work across a range of healthcare settings. I started off in forensic mental health (which was a bit of shock having come from the retail sector); I’ve worked at both small district general hospitals and large teaching hospitals; and I’ve worked in PCTs. And this was all before I went free-lance.
The fact is, it is different working in a PCT compared to large London Teaching Hospital. The issues faced by a Health Visitor are very different to those faced by a Midwife. But equally, there are some similarities.
Personally, I think that working in a PCT means that you have to be more creative. For example, it’s a lot harder to engage a workforce that spends 70% of it’s time off-site, in people’s homes or in a weekly clinic in a healthcentre. But the through-put of the weird and wonderful employee relations cases is definitely greater in acute and mental health trusts.
I’ve come to the conclusion that in the NHS HR professionals are judged on two things:
a) how well they can handle medical staff (They’re not an easy bunch: An HR professional needs to be credible and prepared to be robustly challenged on a regular basis. But once you’ve earned your “stripes” they are very loyal.)
b) how many war wounds they have (ie how many complex and difficult ER cases they have managed).
And naturally, an HR professional is more likely to gain experience in these two areas by working in the acute or mental health sector.
This will be an interesting year watching what happens to my PCT colleagues. I know a number of excellent HR professionals who I hope are able to secure new positions on the basis of their competency as opposed to any other ill-judged set of criteria.