· Features

Cure the HR problems and save the NHS

As Tony Blair reaches his fifth year in power, one of the big tests of his future credibility will be the state of the NHS. Will he be able to find the road to effective reform? You only have to look at recent headlines to know that the HR issues lie at the heart of the matter. Recently, Blair made two speeches. In one, he praised the workers in the NHS for their dedication; in the other he seemed to be calling many of them wreckers for their supposed opposition to modernisation. Unison, brilliantly quick off the mark, released a series of adverts showing NHS staff at work, and asked Blair whether these were the wreckers. So, can HR help to modernise the NHS? Is it capable of promoting less of a command-and-control system? Human Resources sent Peter Oborne to interview Andrew Foster, the Department of Healths head of HR, to find out.

Peter Oborne also assesses Blair, along with the other two party leaders, on IQ, EQ and people management skills, and concludes that Charles Kennedy is the best political leader in the UK. And continuing on the theme of leadership, theres a chance for you to find out if you have got what it takes to be great at HR by trying our quiz.

Allan Leighton, chairman of Consignia, was honest enough recently to say that he disliked the name Consignia. I am sure the company could have saved itself a lot of money if it had listened to its frontline staff. This example highlights the importance of having a significant HR focus on a name change from the moment the board starts to talk about it. Also, with HR involved, there might be a clearer idea on how to sell the new name internally. Larissa Bannister reports on the low-key role HR seems to have played in this area so far.

Over 100 HR directors responded to the Hewitt Bacon & Woodrow/Human Resources survey on the future of HR. The results show that all the hard work of recent years pushing more HR out to the line and raising the functions strategic role has paid off. While there are many who seem to think HR is still in the Dark Ages, this research goes some way to presenting a more realistic picture. Line managers, who are spending as much as 45% of their time on people issues, respect the support that HR can give them.

The survey also shows that companies arent outsourcing many HR activities and those that are may not be saving money. What it does reveal though is that many are planning to use technology to improve transactional HR. A word of warning: when calculating the cost of HR make sure to include the time spent by the line on HR-related issues.

Finally, if all this talk of costs is stressful, Ellis Watson has the antidote to this corporate culture killer.

Morice Mendoza