Headlines: October 1st, 2004

New research is to study links between the way National Health Service staff are managed and the quality of care given to patients. The quarter of a million pound project, “Improving Health Through HRM” is an initiative commissioned jointly by the Department of Health, the Association of Healthcare Human Resources Management and the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development.The objective of the research is to increase understanding of how human resources practices influence the quality of healthcare. It will undertake new case studies in the health service as well as reviewing existing research findings.

The project will be managed by the CIPD and the study will be conducted by a team based at the University of Manchester, led by Dr Pauline Hyde and including Professors Mick Marchington and Paul Sparrow. Other research projects are expected to be undertaken by other organisations that were short-listed for this research. The work will be carried out in two phases, concentrating initially on interpreting what existing research means for HR practice. That is expected to last for about a year before phase two moves on to primary research within the NHS to identify how human resources practices really make a difference in outcomes for organisations, staff and patients.

A steering group is being set up including human resources professionals. Practitioners will be involved at every stage as a significant part of the work will be to make sure the wider health service is made aware of the researchers’ findings.

Peter King, from AHHRM, said human resources practitioners and line managers were looking for practical ways to help them achieve better outcomes for both staff and patients and the research would help them to focus on best practice, to ensure healthcare professionals were being managed in ways that maximised benefits to patients and staff.

Mike Emmott, Employee Relations Adviser at the CIPD, said its own substantial body of research had already shown the powerful links between progressive people management practices and business performance. “In the NHS this translates into outcomes that can make the difference between life and death,” he said. “Through this project we are taking the lead in translating our research findings into messages that managers in the NHS can use in their day-to-day work,” he added.