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You are fired!

Author: Emma Hodges
12 June 2017

Emma Hodges, Group Chief Executive at St. Giles Hospice, explains the importance of the work of Human Resources departments in hospices.

Human Resources as a profession is often ridiculed in several well-known TV shows and shown as a bureaucratic  process and policy-obsessed element of an organisation.  It  is often understood to be involved in hiring, firing and sickness absence.  Although I am sure many people would say that Human Resources does not support “firing” as often as managers would sometimes like.

At this point I should confess to being an HR Professional with many years’ experience at a senior level with a particular interest in workforce planning and design.

Hospices are talking about dispelling the myths of hospice care, telling people we are about so much more than they think we are.  Arguably the same applies to Human Resources and with the pressures that hospices are facing, never has it been more important to ensure we are getting the best out of this essential business function.

Human Resources is critical to delivering hospice care now and in the future.  More than 70 per cent of our expenditure is on our workforce.  A significant percentage of our nurses are over 50 and there is a national shortage of nurses. This is not dissimilar to challenges in the medical and allied healthcare professions.   Hospice care is changing, patients’ needs are physically and socially more complex.

An increasing number of patients have either comorbidities or have non-malignant diseases. The income generation climate is tough, the NHS environment continually changing. New roles and education programmes are providing opportunities to consider models of care delivery.  The apprenticeship levy will have a financial impact if we do not use it wisely. We rely heavily on volunteers and there are challenges both in the age of the volunteer workforce and the flexibility required by a future workforce.

We cannot prepare for the workforce impact of these challenges without giving our HR leads the support and time to focus on this agenda.

I have worked with a wide range of HR professionals and unfortunately too many who focus on a particular specialist area in HR and are not perhaps demonstrating the broad values that the function can offer.  I want my managers to manage and not need HR every time someone goes off sick or does not do what is expected of them.  The fundamental function I need from HR right now is one that ensures we have a workforce plan that means as a hospice we are fit for purpose and ready for the future.

I have restructured the HR department at St Giles – what we have done would not suit everyone. I now have a role that is freed up to focus on developing and delivering our workforce plan and in particular prioritising the experience of potential new recruits to ensure we can attract and retain the very best staff for our patients and their families.

We need to allow our HR departments to step up to the challenge and structure them in a way that allows them to work closely with our clinical teams to produce a plan for our future workforce.   Not all hospices have HR departments and I am not saying that all should.  However I would argue that all hospices should have a workforce plan and that HR professionals are best equipped (or should be) to do this work.

Having met some fantastic senior HR professionals in hospices, I am optimistic about the future of Human Resources as a profession in our sector.  I welcome the new Strategic HR and Workforce Leads network (SHaWL), which is being supported by Hospice UK.  The national group is going to be aligned to the same regional model as ELCiHP and will hopefully work jointly on many of the workforce challenges we face. To find out more read Matt Corbishley, HR and Workforce Director for Ashgate Hospice’s recent article.

Given the challenges we face, never has it been more important to appreciate and utilise the value that Human Resources can add.


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