HOPE – which stands for Hospitals of EurOPE – is an exchange programme which offers NHS colleagues in leadership positions a unique opportunity to exchange time in their healthcare system with another EU member state for four weeks. In his first blog, Erik Smith, HR business partner at Central North West London NHS Foundation Trust, shares the start of his journey on the programme.
I work for Central North West London NHS Foundation Trust (CNWL). CNWL have approximately 6500 to 7000 staff (depending on services and tendering processes) operating in 300 different health services (physical and mental health, older adults to child and adolescent services, community and inpatient services, sexual health or eating disorders, addictions and substance abuse as well as offender care). With a budget of £450million CNWL has 150 sites across a vast geographic area for the UK from Milton Keynes across London and out to Kent. Our catchment area covers a range of vibrant and diverse communities, with over 100 first languages spoken.
As a HR business partner for a mental health hospital, I focus on:
- Building Relationships with services and HR teams
- Workforce Development and Planning
- Organisational Change
- Tendering and TUPE
- Employee Relations (ER)
- Terms and Conditions of Employment / Policy Development
Applying for the programme
My motivations for applying were multiple. On a personal level I have always enjoyed working with different cultures and values, and with this programme there is a massive opportunity to experience living in another country for a month. In terms of my professional development, the programme offered numerous opportunities to challenge myself and pick up different insights and innovations into the delivery of healthcare in another country. I hoped this insight would allow me to improve myself as a HR practitioner in partnering my service areas and bring back real value to hopefully improve services. On an organisational level, I was participating to get an assessment of the potential costs for my organisation with a view to ensuring regular participation in the exchange with CNWL, so that we may regularly send participants as part of a Trust talent management programme.
Before I started the programme, I had previously worked with a hospital in Lugo in the northwest of Spain in a province called Galecia. After my time in Lugo, I stayed in Oviedo observing mental health care across the region of Asturias. So I hoped to continue to fulfil some of my personal aspirations through participating in the HOPE programme, specifically:
Innovation: I wanted to observe healthcare management practices, structures and systems in another country and bring innovations to CNWL which support models referenced in the NHS Five Year Forward View. I have a particular interest in the Alzira Public/Private model in Spain (pg 24). Problems with Spain’s economy resulted in deep cost reductions in healthcare, and yet the Alzira model reported better patient outcomes. The HOPE programme presented an opportunity to assess how CNWL might benefit. Insight into the different HR approaches, training and models of learning could also improve my own HR practice.
Improving efficiency: Efficiency programmes forecast that we will need to facilitate movement of patients who use adult mental health services into community care settings, and the Alzira model highlights a faster discharge of patients out of inpatient settings. Observing other models and pathways of care could provide the ability to share simple solutions to improve patient pathways and allow me to perform more effectively in my role and supporting services. HR functions in other countries which share EU employment law may have more efficient methods of incorporating EU law that I can also implement.
European Networks: Brexit will divide Britain from Europe; HOPE provides an opportunity to establish links between CNWL and European healthcare organisations. It’s my intention to utilise these to facilitate cross sharing of ideas and improve my ability to innovate at CNWL. This means there will be opportunities to continually innovate by challenging each other and share different models of delivery.
Healthcare organisational links: The NHS relies on European labour. Partnerships with EU organisations may offer mutual benefits such as cutting out agencies, and identifying staff wanting relocation to Europe or Britain. Post-Brexit, I hope to develop reciprocal arrangements as a partner with Healthcare organisations in Europe. My aim is that after Brexit, VISA sponsorship arrangements might be needed for EU nurses who subsequently might not know where to start when looking to work in the UK. By developing networks with other organisations in Europe my hope is that CNWL will be a reference point to EU organisations that have staff wishing to move to the UK with reciprocal arrangements in place for nurses who wish to move to the EU from the UK. The idea is that it will give CNWL an advantage in being able to access potential EU talent pools of staff interested in coming to the UK with future VISA requirements, such as company sponsorship.
Cultural development: Working in another country would allow me to immerse myself in a different culture and offer me different perspectives on life as well as different approaches to challenges – both personal and professional – better-enabling me to support others. I love languages and wherever I was placed I knew I’d enjoy learning the local language beforehand. The programme would also hopefully gain me lifelong friends across Europe I could potentially visit when travelling, allowing me to see and experience places in Europe from local perspectives.
Testing life ambitions: I love innovation and learning and believe creativity is harnessed from learning new perspectives and merging ideas or concepts. I’ve never lived outside the UK and it was an aim to live and work abroad and develop my understanding of local cultures.
Benefits to the NHS
The benefits I wish to deliver to the NHS from participating in the programme are:
Insight and innovation: Staff involved in the programme should bring different innovations and ways of delivering care, improving the patient experience and reducing cost. As well as CNWL offering staff to the programme, I plan for CNWL to host staff from Europe who can also generate different perspectives and creative solutions to CNWL problems.
More effective talent management: Subject to costs, I plan to utilise HOPE as part of a talent management system, with CNWL sending some of our best staff to participate annually. I also plan to use a ‘Dragons Den’ format to invite staff to put forward business ideas annually for stretch projects to our executives/ senior managers. The programme will provide a different way to develop high performing staff when there is no immediately available promotion.
A reward programme: To work abroad and experience a different country is a unique enjoyable experience. While challenging, it also offers staff the opportunity to enjoy another country with the ability to make new networks from around Europe. It could act as a form of reward for our best performing staff.
CNWL – Great Place To Work: HOPE is a unique international opportunity not offered by all NHS Trusts. Frequent participation in the programme will differentiate CNWL as an NHS organisation with an international outlook, providing progressive forward-thinking opportunities for staff to ensure international best practices are embedded in our patient care.
Staff performance: CNWL operate a 1-4 performance rating system (1= top rating). I plan for HOPE applications to be open only to staff with a 1 rating. I anticipate that by making applications exclusive to 1 rated staff it will initiate staff /manager performance discussions, instigating staff striving to achieve a 1 rating and perform at the highest level.
Staff retention: The programme could motivate staff to stay at CNWL and try to obtain a place. It will assist in retaining key staff who might have otherwise moved on (myself being an example) with a year from application to participation, ensuring talented staff stay to access the exchange.
Recruitment: By regularly participating, CNWL will raise its profile across Europe, both by the work carried out by our staff on placement and offering a positive experience as a host, making us an employer of choice to European health workers. Advertising CNWLs participation in recruitment will also attract additional UK health workers.
Targeted solutions: By inviting staff to put forward business proposals to participate, CNWL can utilise stretch research projects targeted at specific improvement areas. The programme can be used to draw together different practices which can enable CNWL to deliver improved sustainable healthcare plans.
European Networks: The programme could help CNWL build up a database of healthcare manager contacts in Europe, maintain positive relationships and share best practice.
The Academy is pleased to be sponsoring the HOPE European Exchange programme again in 2018. Applications are now open, and you can find out more about the programme here.