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The Future is not what it used to be…

30 November 2015

It’s clearly no longer ‘business-as-usual’ for the NHS. The health service is under pressure to radically change and reduce the financial deficit, whilst at the same time improving quality of care for the population. The required pace of change is unyielding. Therefore, if a business-as-usual approach cannot deliver the changes that are critical to its survival,then the question remains, what can the NHS do next?

How Interims are supporting the Plan

The NHS confederation ‘group of organisations’ set out the NHS 2015 Challenge; ‘Our prescription for change’. The report stressed the need for action and change in the following key areas; Cultural change; Design or redesign of services; financial change; leadership; workforce; and the utilisation of technology.

Odgers Interim managers are helping to delivering these changes right across the NHS, providing expertise across all functional areas. They are improving performance against national access targets, provide analysis of demand and capacity, offering independent service reviews and strategic workforce planning. The NHS is using specialist interim advisors with expert knowledge who gain their expertise from a number of sectors. These highly skilled interims give the NHS the opportunity to access specific skills which are changing the how patients access healthcare and how the NHS uses technology to support of their work.

Interim Manager or Permanent Locum?

I recently supported a trust to find an interim manager who could take on a specific project, to deliver a pioneering project to tackle the expensive workforce planning issues for the trust in the long-term; “An interim to deal with the temporary staff”. As ironic as that may seem, I wanted to use the example to show that there is a distinction in what the NHS benefits and gains from interim managers against the “permanent locums” provided by an agency.  The former is delivering a “highly skilled service” to the NHS with a defined end and a transparent cost, whilst the latter is also delivering “a highly skilled service” but without an end in sight and an ongoing bill.

Interims are used to demonstrate their ‘worth’, and they are able to quantify their outcomes and achievements, in particular where they have brought about significant change, efficiencies and financials savings. They are not just focused on delivering immediate gratification, by merely “papering over the cracks”, but rather they give transparent, measurable deliverables, bring about sustainable programmes of work that offer workable turnaround solutions.

Can the NHS self-medicate or will it need to find an alternative therapy?

Re-engineering the NHS organisational structures to maximise efficiency will be an arduous and complex task. Can the NHS benefit from harnessing talent from a broader skills base, with highly qualified leaders and managers whose expertise combines both commercial and public sector? Interims with backgrounds in areas such as engineering, an industry where the key measures are based on quality and “world class” efficient processes, are already making an impact in the NHS. 

Leadership from executives will remain vital to trusts; however it is increasing clear that the determining factor in the transformation for the NHS will be the contribution from sub-board, operational managers who are working top down and front line up, reshaping and redesigning services to become efficient and sustainable.

It is essential that UK policy makers, whilst rebalancing the use of agency staff and the costs associated, do not discourage interims who want to continue making a valuable contribution to providers. It is clear to me from recent conversations I am having with clients that the NHS will still require the short to medium term injections of skills that interims can provide. What trusts need to ensure is that they present a robust business case and a clear outline of what the interim is being hired to deliver. The impact can then be assessed and the trust can be assured that the hire is justifiable.

Emma Whittle, Consultant

Emma is a Consultant in the Healthcare practice, supporting the NHS across agenda change from Band 7 to Very Senior Managers (VSM). Read Emma's profile.

Categories: Healthcare


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