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Br J Gen Pract. 2007 October 1; 57(543): 849.
PMCID: PMC2151834

Cogs in a Machine

Once upon a time we were staff, then we became personnel. Latterly we have been human resources, an expression completely lacking in humanity. The NHS has trouble with HR directors, in the sense that they don't seem to stay long. A little while ago, there wasn't a permanent HR director in any of our local Trusts. Things are better now, although ours has become ‘Director of Organisation, People and Performance’. Our whole Trust is an organisation, so what does this mean? Is he organising just the people, or the whole Organisation? Should we read something sinister into his direction of performance? Why has the job title changed from Director of Personnel, which, like ‘dustman’, is a self-evident description of the job, to Director of Organisation, People and Performance, which, like sanitation collection operative, is recognised by everybody as just being a dustman?

Our Trust is anxious to become a Foundation Trust, and is planning a super new PFI hospital. There are great things ahead (we are told). I hope this is true, though not because I want a better place to work, because I shall be long retired before it opens its doors to patients. This enthusiasm, which I cannot fault, has spawned a flurry of e-mail cascading down from the Press Office about our future, and which features heavily the Trust's ‘Big Five’ objectives. Four of these are to improve patient safety, to aim for no waits for treatment, to make progress towards our new hospital, and to achieve Foundation status.

No contention there, and who could argue with the remaining objective: to become a great place to work? Eager to learn more, I read further, to the list detailing how this would happen. The first item read, ‘Organisation Development and Workforce Strategy developed, incorporating core values and key workforce metrics’. I do not understand what this means. It is not obvious to me how this will make the Trust a great place to work in the way that, say, having excellent crèche facilities would do, and in a way that every member of staff would understand. Reading further, staff contribution will be maximised by ‘learning-needs analysis mapped based upon individual, team, job and organisational needs for the future’. If this means more than, ‘We will tell you what you are going to do’, I'd like to know how.

My polite request for some explanation of how all this will be so good for us was eventually acknowledged and passed on to our Director of Organisation, People and Performance, who so far has not replied.


Articles from The British Journal of General Practice are provided here courtesy of Royal College of General Practitioners