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Change is needed in the NHS recruitment process or the heart of the NHS could well cease to beat
Can “recruiting for values” turn around the NHS?
Within recent years the very essence of the NHS has come under intense scrutiny following a series of hospital trusts failing to deliver. Due to this employers within the NHS are now seeking to ensure that they recruit staff whose own values match the organisations in order to make big improvements in patient care.
It’s now over 2 years since the Francis report was published, which looked into the poor patient care offered by the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Hospital Trust following claims about hundreds of patients in their care dying unnecessarily. The recommendations which Robert Francis QC made have created a legacy which it is hoped will turn around the very culture of the NHS in the long term.
One of his key recommendations in the report was that the health service should be recruiting staff who have personal values which are in align with the NHS’ core value and anyone who is recruited onto one of the NHS funded training schemes which view to taking a permanent position in the service needs to be evaluated for their values as much as their experience and qualifications.
At present NHS Employers, the charitable organisation which supports HR professionals working within the health service, is working alongside Health Education England on a national programme aimed at promoting and sharing best practices regarding values based recruitment. The ultimate goal is that all the staff recruited into the NHS in the future will be hired via this approach. At the time of writing, however, this is limited to a network of only around 100 partners.
Lydia Larcum is the project manager for NHS Employers value based recruitment and she has said that some trusts had started to review their hiring practices even before the Francis report and those were now starting to share their experiences with those who are just starting out.
She said that, on the whole, the NHS is a compilation of local organisations who each have their own set of values. Even though they possess these individual approaches or values the NHS Constitution still possesses its own set of core values. While interpretations of these values may differ slightly between organisation it is imperative that they work together for the patients and these values are equally important for small community hospitals and large general hospitals.
On a level of practicality, recruitment based on values means the adjustment of the processes involved through everything from personal specification and role design to how the candidates are interviewed and then inducted into the NHS. An example of this is when an HR team continues to use the same tools in terms of situational judgement tests or structured interviews but the scenarios or questions are presented in such a way to the candidate that they elicit information regarding behaviour and values.
Ms Larcum also points out that the traditional approach tends to focus on what experience people have and what qualifications they possess rather than why they have done, or feel about, something. The addition of probing questions to the standard ones could be along the lines of “tell me how you handled a particularly difficult situation” as this encourages candidates to reveal their motivation behind their actions rather than just explaining how they behaved at the time.
This is something the recruitment industry also welcomes, Sonia Browne director of Dream GP Recruitment comments “Whilst the implementation of the values based components may lengthen the recruitment process the vast majority feel it is worth it to get the right people in the first instance. As it is ultimately the patient care that is the core of the NHS this would seem very much the right way to move forward. Without a change in approach the heart of the NHS could well cease to beat”