26th February 2014

Written by Nick Carey

Having worked on NHS projects for over ten years, I’ve noticed the growing importance of strong communication skills.  A large part of this stems from the ongoing restructuring, shared services and the current reduced resourcing across the NHS.

With fewer resources the workload pressure on individuals is now noticeably higher. With this added pressure has come more juggling of projects and deliverables for individuals.

Although the NHS is moving away from the ‘silo’ culture, where departments operate as independent units, the change process is slow and becoming increasingly tougher. This is due to financial cutbacks and reduced resources.  Attention is currently focused, quite rightly, on addressing priority areas and backlogs. The knock-on effect is that some departments are unable or unwilling to share information as freely as in the past.

So how does this affect contractors?

Prior to the financial cuts, the scope of contractor roles carried could be described as fairly stable with clearly defined project deliverables. But now the scope of deliverables expected from contractors seems to be widening.  

My last role as a Performance Analyst went far beyond the usual compiling and analysing of management information.  I had to take on responsibility for liaising between clinical leads to get them ‘back in the room’ working together — and this helped ease the pressure on permanent staff.

Going forward

Currently, a key ability required by many contractors is facilitation. To be a successful facilitator, you need skills such as diplomacy, active listening and mediation – and I see these skills as becoming ever more important.

Contractors are being valued for bringing a fresh pair of eyes to NHS organisations even more so in light of the current pressure on permanent staff. Managers are recognising that contractors can identify project issues that may not be obvious to permanent staff, and that adds real value to the organisation.

There’s never been a better time for proactive contractors to demonstrate their flexibility and to use their communication skills. They can be key players by relieving some of the pressure NHS teams are under, and helping to bridge the gap between different departments so project deliverables are achieved.

Nick Carey is an IM&T Practitioner with over ten years’ experience in delivering Database Design, Information Management and Analysis, and IT Training. He is the Director at Indigo Group UK Ltd and can be reached by email: nick@indigogroupukltd.com

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