New deputy director of people at NHS England gets to grips with 15 per cent cost cuts

Daniel Hartley FCIPD joined NHS England as deputy director of people, in November 2014 after spending 12 years in various HR and OD roles at Leeds City Council. In his new post, Hartley is tasked with leading the Corporate People team, which covers HR policy development, improvement programmes and projects, human capital and outsourced HR shared services.

Joining the ‘arms-length body’ at one of the most challenging times for the health service, and just before a general election, might sound a little bonkers to the faint-hearted. But Hartley is eager to get stuck into developing NHS England’s approach to people, to deliver sustainable performance and improve patient outcomes.

How have the first couple of months been in post?

It’s obviously been a bit full on. We have a massive agenda to deliver at NHS England, shaped by the Five Year Forward View, which focuses on creating the foundations for a longer term NHS transformation. And currently we are delivering a number of change programmes inside the organisation too. These programmes help us focus on the organisation’s key capabilities while we deliver a 15 per cent reduction in running costs by the 1st of April 2015. Given that NHS England commissions and distributes £98bn throughout the health system in England, I think it is the biggest challenge facing the public sector – and probably one of the biggest challenges in the UK – right now.

What’s first on the HR agenda then?

From a people point of view, there were 162 organisations that ceased to exist on 31st March 2013 and so we had 6,000 staff transfer in across the country when NHS England was ‘born’ on 1st April 2013. As a consequence of that, I am leading on a plan to complete the start up phase of NHS England and develop the people policies, systems and processes to support that. We are also working on a people and OD strategy for the organisation and we’ll be engaging with the business over the next few months to make sure we enable the delivery of NHS England’s mission: high quality care for all, now and for future generations. At this relatively new organisation, we are setting the standards, introducing new policies and practices. We have no template to work from but there is a lot of HR infrastructure that needs to be put in place.

The NHS has faced a lot of negative press in recent months; how will you overcome this to get the best from your staff?

We at NHS England need to find a way of delivering sustainable performance through people and transformation. I see my role as helping the organisation to look after itself, making sure it is effective and efficient so it can deliver under political pressure and make the NHS more sustainable. It will be a learning curve definitely, but I have a lot of confidence in the team that Stephen [Moir, chief people officer, NHS England] has pulled together to develop the organisation’s people and OD capability. I’m fortunate to have a great team with a wide range of public and private sector experience and am enjoying this big challenge so far.