DEGREE AWARDS '08: Study On Health Staff Reactions To NHS Change Highly Praised
Date posted: 17 January 2008
National restructuring of the NHS, or any major business’s change, can leave some local staff feeling insecure and vulnerable, says research by a senior health professional.
The study by a senior NHS worker from Leicestershire, which examined recent changes in her own Trust, has been praised by both her peers and tutors.
Anne-Maria Olphert - Associate Director of Children’s Community Services within Leicester City NHS Primary Care Trust - will graduate from the University of Derby tomorrow (January 19) with top marks for her Masters in Business Administration (MBA) looking at staff reactions to local NHS changes put in place by Government.
Her research into The Effects Of Organisational Change On Staff Within The Local Primary Care Trusts used the merger of NHS Primary Care Trusts in Leicester as a starting point to highlight best practice and identify how to reduce potentially negative effects on staff and services.
In October 2006 the six NHS Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) covering Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland were merged into two. This was part of a national restructuring programme to improve efficiency and save on unnecessary costs.
PCTs commission local health services for people such as hospitals, dentists, opticians, mental health services, walk-in centres, patient transport and pharmacies. They control 80% of the NHS budget nationally.
The PCT changes in Leicestershire led to nine job losses at a senior level among the total of 1,100 staff and some reorganisation of other employees, according to Anne-Maria’s study.
Her work drew on other academic research, in addition to fresh interviews and focus group meetings with 17 new and experienced Leicestershire NHS staff. Anne-Maria aimed to assess how people reacted to their experience of change.
Some staff had welcomed the 2006 change as positive, seeing it as a way of reducing bureaucracy. One staff member interviewed said they had never “reconciled that we should have had six PCTs (with) loads of extra management”.
Other NHS members described feelings of “uncertainty, insecurity and vulnerability” both during and after the major organisational change. These people were more likely to feel they had not been listened to by management as part of the reorganisation and were more inclined to leave, during or after it.
Anne-Maria’s MBA research concluded by offering advice to NHS managers undertaking future changes, aimed at providing an approach whereby staff felt more engaged in the process of change.
That advice included:
- informing staff about the change process as early as possible to prevent misinformation filling the gap left by a lack of facts;
- using newsletters, workshops, emails, intranet pages, newspapers and meetings to explain the reasons behind the strategy;
- setting a timescale and targets with achievable outcomes, so people could be apprised of the progress so far;
- publicly reporting on the organisational changes after they’ve been completed, to make clear the lessons learnt, would also make staff feel their opinions were valued.
Anne-Maria said: “The NHS is facing new challenges, needing to think more like a business and being able to communicate clearly with both patients and staff about what exactly the vision and future for this organisation is.
“Studying business methods on my MBA and understanding how successful organisations deal with challenges has enabled me to apply this learning to my work environment.”
Dr Christine Jones, Head of Partnership Development in the Faculty of Business, Computing and Law at the University of Derby, added: “Anne-Maria has completed an excellent MBA dissertation on a subject of significant public interest, that of change within the NHS.
“The work was based on a recent significant reorganisation within the NHS and she identified a number of very useful recommendations which could have great value to the sector at large.”
A spokeswoman for NHS Primary Care Trusts in Leicestershire said: “We are proud of Anne-Marie’s outstanding achievements in her studies, particularly whilst continuing to undertake a challenging senior role within an ever-changing primary care environment.
“Her insights will be helpful both to us and to other managers within the NHS.”
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