HR managers and directors across the NHS have revealed how the threat of significant public spending cuts is affecting staff performance and, critically, threatening to widen the divide between clinical and non-clinical staff. In the week the Government has announced its intention to slash NHS management costs, there is also a warning for its own function: demonstrate your strategic role.

NHS HR believe staff have responded positively in the face of uncertainty around job security, a survey by career and talent management experts, Right Management shows. Over half of those surveyed do not think staff believe there is still long-term job security and job opportunities in the NHS, however 60 per cent think that workers have become more agile and resilient. Fifty-seven per cent agree that NHS staff continue to see their job as important, possibly explaining the tenacity of employees to perform in tough times.

Eighty-five per cent of HR managers say they have a talent management strategy in place and 82 per cent think senior management view these strategies as a valuable tool for managing their organisation. But only 19 per cent were very confident they had the resource to develop and adapt these strategies going forward.

A divide between clinical and non-clinical employees is being fuelled by a belief that clinical staff are less likely to be affected by cuts. This has since been realised with NHS management costs to be cut by £850 million by 2014. HR managers and directors believe that there will be more career development investment for clinical staff (thirteen per cent) over organisational management staff (five percent).

Fifty-eight per cent agree that workers also see a significant divide between senior management with a clinical background and those with a management background, demonstrating that roles perceived as less useful are being identified by staff as at risk.

Despite employees believing HR is doing a good job, they do not recognise its strategic value. When asked if the attitude of staff towards the HR function had become more positive or negative over recent years, 61 per cent of respondents said it was more positive. However, only 41 per cent of respondents thought staff would agree that HR plays an important strategic role within the organisation.

Andy Lowe, practice leader at Right Management, says: “During this critical time of change for the NHS, HR is going to be fundamental to ensure the organisation has the right people and skills to be the effective in the new world. There are good intentions with the talent management strategies already in place, now would be the key time to ensure these strategies are executed to guarantee the NHS doesn’t just survive the next few difficult years, but that it succeeds.”

“It is positive that staff are demonstrating their resilience at this time of uncertainty and that they recognise how HR supports them. To bolster this and to demonstrate its strategic role, HR needs to ensure their organisations align their talent strategy with their organisational objectives.”