The future of NHS human resources and organisational development


By Chris Burling | 25 November 2021

The recently launched ‘Future of NHS human resources and organisational development‘ publication by NHS England’s Chief People Officer is a welcome recognition of the important role HR and OD professionals play in making the NHS one of the best employers in the world.

Launched on 22nd November 2021, backed up by the NHS People Plan and Our People Promise, the publication supports the drive to help create the NHS services needed for the next decade.

The publication acknowledges that “the NHS of 2030 will be fundamentally different from the service we work in today – as set out in the NHS Long Term Plan. The world of work is changing at a pace never imagined, with growing evidence of links between staff wellbeing, care quality, and retention. This is evolving alongside digital technologies, automating tasks, remote working, and new advances based on artificial intelligence. Meanwhile, existing ways of working, models of care and organisational boundaries are being transformed, as the NHS adapts to the changing needs and expectations of our population.”

At Skills for Health, we are deeply invested in the development of people and organisations in the NHS, it is reassuring to see the commitment to the role of the ‘people profession’ in the newly published report ‘The future of NHS human resources and organisational development’ and to note the acknowledgement towards the changing nature of work, of healthcare, and the emerging role of ICSs as an overarching context for the vision.

It is equally important that the community of practitioners and professionals who undertake this valuable, impactful, and profoundly necessary contribution – as diverse, challenging, and exciting as it is – feel supported and encouraged to continue to develop the ideas and approaches that can underpin a dynamic, sustainable and inclusive environment in health and care, and this report provides the reassurance that this will be the case.

The publication provides a forward-vision of the needs and challenges people professionals will deal with to shape the NHS workforce, to make it fit for purpose in 2030 and beyond. Grouped into four key areas, the report includes:

  • A focus on the need to evolve to meet the changing world, changes in service demand and moving towards integrated care systems (ICS)
  • A forward vision for the people profession, highlighting the importance of a professionalised service, is instrumental in making the NHS an inclusive and effective place to work
  • Practical considerations to turn the vision into reality, with a 35 point set of actions for the NHS to aim towards over the next decade
  • Guidance to support human resources/chief people officer professionals within NHS Trusts and ICSs, which includes 8 priorities for March 2023 to work collaboratively to make the ambitions of the plan, happen.

There is much to discuss, debate and dissect in the details of this publication, but it is ultimately a hopeful, timely and reflective analysis and set of recommendations that can inform, promote and stimulate much-needed conversations – around collaboration, resource and investment, complexity, the evolution of socio-technical development, and care for people.

As the Sector Skills Council for Health, we champion the entire workforce and put people at the heart of all workforce development solutions, to help deliver a sustainable and skilled healthcare workforce for the future.

Chris Burling is the Principal Consultant at Skills for Health, with responsibility for managing the delivery of Leadership, Management, and Organisational Development (LMOD) services across the NHS and healthcare sector. Chris joined Skills for Health on 1 November from the NHS National Leadership Academy where he held the position of Leadership Development Senior Manager. It was at this role where Chris was responsible for a broad portfolio of activities relating to leadership and people development in the South-West, working with a range of partners and colleagues to co-create interventions with systems, communities, and organisations to enhance leadership at all levels. The role included custom design, the management of open regional programmes, as well as responsibility for the provision of coaching, Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI), and stakeholder engagement.

Find out more about Leadership & Organisational Development programmes, supporting NHS people professionals to develop the right skills, for the right people, at the right time.


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