HRDs ‘learn, refresh and renew’ at NHS Workforce Summit

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Danny Mortimer speaking

‘NHS leaders need space to refresh, renew and learn new ideas. This summit presents that opportunity.’

Sir Andrew Cash opened this year’s NHS Workforce Summit at Confed17, with a warm welcome to delegates and encouragement to take the opportunity to network, learn and be inspired.


Inspiration was plentiful in the first speaker session, from author and Olympian Matthew Syed. Matthew spoke of the importance of learning, especially learning from mistakes, stating that high performance is not about what we know, it’s about learning what we don’t. “Best practice is only the best there is so far, improvement comes from learning and growing,” he said. 

A straw poll of delegates identified retention, supply and engagement as the three main workforce challenges for HRDs. These topics and more were covered in the workshop sessions, which saw debates on the need for a more proactive approach to workforce supply and whether the NHS is flexible enough to retain staff, with a call to hit the ‘sweet spot’ between organisational needs and the needs of the individual. 

Anita Charlesworth, director of policy at the Health Foundation spoke of the NHS productivity challenge and gave some stark statistics on recruitment investment, supporting the view that the NHS is entering its biggest workforce challenge to date. 

A closed session on national workforce strategic priorities allowed delegates to pose questions to NHS England, NHS Improvement, the Department of Health, Health Education England and NHS Employers. 

The final speaker of the day was John Timpson, chairman of shoe-repair chain Timpson, who shared his insights on developing a good employer and customer brand.

His upside-down approach to management and leadership – placing the power within customer-serving roles – has succeeded on making Timpson one of the strongest employer brands in the UK. With his views on employing the right people with the right attitude, on visible leadership and his priority of looking after his staff to ensure first-class customer care, delegates had many take-home moments to choose from.

Follow what was said during the summit: #NHSE17


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