Leading independent HR expert Chris Roebuck today predicted that the NHS could significantly reduce the impact of major budget cuts provided it was able to fully harness the skills and commitment of its staff. But he warned that the organisation had under two years to make the necessary changes before it faced cuts estimated to be between £8 and £10 billion.

Speaking at the NHS Talent Management Conference in London Roebuck pointed out that, although the best practices in the NHS rival the best in the private sector, data from McKinsey suggests the average NHS trust could be performing at about 20% below the level of major British companies when it comes to managing performance of people and talent. He said that this must change by 2011.

“NHS leaders need to create an environment where every member of staff is fully engaged to deliver world class patient care,” he said.

“They need to innovate and seek efficiencies to save money and to work together as a single aligned and integrated team. Above all, it’s about getting everyone to give that 30% extra discretionary effort that they can give to their organisation should they wish.”

A number of organisations across the world have achieved similar changes so the NHS has a proven road map to follow. It has many of the resources required and has a critical advantage that the private sector often lacks – the deep loyalty of staff.

“All it has to do now is make a determined effort to go up a gear and make it happen; for both staff and patients,” he said.

Roebuck believes that the Government’s role must be to focus on the delivery of patient care with fewer resources, and the move away from the achievement of a limited set of target figures disconnected from the reality of patient experience.

Former global head of talent management and development at UBS, Chris Roebuck advises a wide range of clients in both public and private sectors on maximising performance through people. His work at UBS contributed to the bank being Best Company for Leaders in 2005 and is a Harvard Business School case study. Chris has held senior HR positions with London Underground and KPMG, served in the British Army and helped develop the talent and leadership in organisations as diverse as Goldman Sachs, Bank of England, NHS, Arts Council, Law Firms, Danish Age Association and Food Standards Agency.