23 September 2012

Sarah Lovell – Consultant in Odgers Interim’s Healthcare Division – discusses some of the NHS’s core challenges

I don’t really need to state the obvious and say that Health is a labour-intensive service industry. Statistics show that approximately 70% of the recurring costs in the NHS are wages. On first glance, this seems shocking but without the talents, skills and expertise of the doctors, nurses, consultants, managers and everyone else in between, the service would grind to a halt.

The NHS – just like every other organisation that delivers healthcare provisions – must find and secure sufficient numbers of high quality staff who possess the appropriate skills but who are also innovative and delivery focussed. This is a challenge that we see day-in-day-out when we speak to our clients and the interims we work with.

The long awaited Health & Social Care Act received Royal Assent in March 2012 to much hype, debate and speculation. There’s no doubt that it splits opinion and that its impact will be significant, but the true implications are yet to be fully understood and there lies the problem.

The Act’s goal is to create a leaner and more efficient NHS that puts patients at its heart; this sounds great but the reality is still being fleshed out. I’m sure that some of the risks which have been articulated may - or may not unfold - but many unanswered questions remain that can’t, unfortunately, be addressed in the very near future.

This is a time of unprecedented change – the scale of which, coupled with the breadth of reducing numbers in management capability to deliver - is a very real issue. As I said, first class services can’t be delivered without people and we’re witnessing a real shift in recruitment patterns that’s opening up opportunities for highly experienced Interim Managers; especially as the challenges the NHS faces are such that they can’t be delivered by in-house resources alone.

The setting up of a new organisation – or a complete restructure - is a complex process and it’s inevitable there will be risk involved but mitigating the organisational risk must be of paramount importance.

The NHS Commissioning Board has made the recent admission in its “risk register” that it may fail to populate the new organisational structure by March 2013. This is an alarming admission from the quango that is responsible for spending a third of the NHS total budget which amounts to some £30billion.

As experienced specialist Interim providers to the healthcare sector, it’s fascinating for us to see how the market has adjusted to these issues. The current market is primarily being led by ‘distress purchases’ where Interims are brought in to counteract deterioration in performance - particularly within the ‘Acute’ sector. There has also been demand for financial turnaround experts, those with capacity and capability knowledge and those who can act on a more consultancy basis with diagnostic or investigative skills. We are also seeing gaps developing within Executive Management teams across the whole of the UK so this isn’t being led by region. 

To sum up, the NHS has a challenging HR agenda and as these complex people and planning issues deepen, the need for executive interim management support will only continue to be more relevant and more needed.

If you would like to learn more about Sarah or her work, please do check out her profile.

Categories: Healthcare


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