Public Sector: Why HR is such a life or death issue
The government accepts the need for better people management after a study showed a link with lower mortality in hospitals. Report by Gareth Huw Davies HUMAN RESOURCES may be coming into its own at last, as research shows that it could play a vital role in the reform of the NHS. Evidence to be presented this week at a conference attended by health-service executives will show that better HR, rather than more doctors, could be the key to saving lives. The findings, by Aston Business School, Birmingham, emphasise that good people management can cut the number of deaths, and overturns long-held beliefs about the vital role of top medical care at the hospital bedside. This will be good news for the government as it begins to emphasise the importance of better organisation of people in the health service. This summer the NHS appointed the relatively inexperienced Andrew Foster as its £100,000-a-year director of HR to spearhead its new personnel strategy, which was launched in July. Ministers now see an important role for better HR in the 10-year programme of health-service reforms. On Wednesday, Michael West, professor of organisational psychology at Aston Business School, will reveal new data on patient mortality at the conference, organised by RightCoutts, a change-management specialist. West says: “Our findings show that better HR means fewer deaths. The long-standing assumption that what matters is the number of doctors per 100 beds, which has always been regarded as a key indicator of mortality, is no longer statistically significant, whereas HR practices are. The management of people in hospitals is a strong predictor of mortality.” The Aston team surveyed HR directors at 61 British hospital trusts. They found that in hospitals with “above average” appraisal systems, mortality rates were 3.9% lower than average; in those with “below average” appraisal systems, mortality rates were 3.9% higher than...
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