Hello  PPMA friends

I was delighted to attend the HPMA Annual Conference in Manchester last week. With a theme of Future Thinking, it was wonderful to spend time with our HPMA friends. It was a great opportunity to see the new Chief People Officer for NHS England and Improvement, Prerana Issar speak. She shared the key priorities from the Interim NHS People Plan that was recently issued.  Workforce issues are clearly at the heart of the overall NHS agenda – delivering great patient care is hugely dependent on the workforce – that’s not news to the rest of us working across public services.

A few things came to my mind – firstly, Prerana is the real deal. She brings strong public service experience (gained at the UN) with equally strong private sector experience. She spoke on Day 1 of conference and I found her very compelling, authentic and utterly inspirational. Secondly, she has been in post only 8 weeks but she has a deft grasp of the key issues. Thirdly – and most importantly to me – she made sure to credit the team who had developed the plan.  Dean Royles, the new HPMA President is also the real deal – he has had a stellar career in the NHS and he takes over from Deborah Tarrant who has taken HPMA through a significant journey and restructure as a Charity.

There were lots of interesting sessions and we had chance to share our key objectives from the MOU partnership with our HPMA colleagues. What is really clear to us is that we share common challenges, can learn from each other and frustratingly, that we are often reinventing the wheel across public services HR & OD. So, we continue to be committed to working with HPMA, UHR and CIPD to raise our collective voices, but just as critically share learning and promote good practice. We do not have the luxury in terms of money and resources to plough our own furrows; and if we want to provide opportunities for colleagues to work effectively across public services, then we must collaborate – we are much stronger together.

I also very much enjoyed the HPMA Awards evening – it was a wonderful evening and there were some fantastic winners. I was really pleased to see that our colleagues in Greater Manchester won an award for the Health and Social Care partnership. That was fantastic. James Devine won HPMA HRD of the Year – it was a hugely popular choice. James is from Medway NHS Foundation Trust. He has recently been appointed as Chief Executive which is a fantastic achievement and is another example that being a HRD is not a barrier to further success. Many of you won’t have heard of Jan Bloomfield, but she is this year’s HMPA President’s Award Winner. Jan has recently retired from the West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (WSFT), where she served as Director of Workforce (and other portfolios) for 27 years. Jan seemed completely taken aback to receive a standing ovation but it was absolutely clear that her colleagues adore her. It is easy to become cynical – and we clearly know that there are people in senior leadership posts who aren’t admired or respected – but the level of emotion displayed towards Jan was deeply deeply moving.  It was an honour to witness it first-hand.

Sometimes the Universe conspires to send you messages about the path your are on. Our #outoftheshadows campaign isn’t the only time that bullying has made the headlines – and progress has certainly been made. We’ve had much publicity around individual NHS cases and indeed in Universities too. Conference Day 2 gave us the opportunity to hear from Helene Donnelly. This extraordinarily courageous and humble nurse was at the heart of the maelstrom of the Mid Staffordshire scandal. Helene described a number of incidents where her own physical safety was threatened – and for a period of time her husband and father would need to meet her at the front of the hospital to make sure she got home safely. She also told us of other incidents were colleagues threatened to manipulate medicine that she was due to give patients so that she would be blamed for harm that would come to those patients. You could have heard a pin drop. Even after all this time, her voice still breaks on telling her story. I don’t mind saying that her talk upset me greatly and enraged me deeply. On the one hand it was good that my drive home was so much longer than normal as it gave me time to reflect on how things have gone so wrong in our workforces where people who are genuinely wanting to help are being so badly treated.

Her comments about the lack of support she received from HR cut deeply. Helene described the expectation that all of our colleagues should rightly have of us – that we are guardians of values and behaviours and that we are a trusted friend when people need to come to us and tell us when things are going wrong. She was wholly let down by HR and that is a horrible realisation for those of us who should take our obligation to those in trouble so seriously. Brene Brown’s quote struck me deeply too. We must be the people who colleagues know will listen and respond with empathy and understanding. In this way, we can mitigate some of the terrible emotional consequences that people who have been bullied often feel.

I’m pleased to say that I’ll be continuing my conversations with HPMA and UHR about #outoftheshadows and whilst there are details to sort out, I am in no doubt that our friends are bought into this very important campaign. One of our primary drivers behind our MOU was to raise our collective voice – and I feel ever more strongly that we are going to achieve that for #outoftheshadows.

Wherever you are this week, I hope it is kind to you.