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NHS Digital staff at risk of redundancy as part of restructure

More than 600 NHS Digital employees have been told they may have to reapply for their jobs, as redundancies loom in the first wave of the organisation’s restructure

NHS Digital has asked more than 600 of its staff to reapply for their jobs as part of the first wave of a restructure to change the shape and size of the organisation.

NHS Digital held a series of meetings with its staff, informing them of the restructure and that a number of jobs would be affected by the first wave of NHS Digital’s restructure, which means they could be at risk of redundancy. The first wave includes 622 job roles. 

Following the meetings, staff were sent an email, seen by Computer Weekly,  which said NHS Digital will reassess its needs, both now and for the future, looking at “what new skills are required” and “how many roles are required” across different professions and pay bands. The organisation also shared the information on its intranet. 

By the end of this month, NHS Digital will share a “proposal for change” with trade unions and staff affected, setting out timescales, consultation plans, the selection process for roles, and “options for staff who are not selected into the new structure”.

This means staff will have to reapply for their current positions and prove their value to the organisation.

According to a timeline document accompanying the email, employees not yet appointed by the beginning of December 2018 will be given the “opportunity to consider voluntary redundancy, and by January 2018, NHS Digital aims to have agreed exit dates for redundancies”.

The restructure, dubbed Org2, is intended to redesign NHS Digital to ensure it has the right skills and capability in place, while at the same time dealing with a challenging budget.

Computer Weekly understands that NHS Digital needs more technical experts, such as people with machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) expertise and more cyber security experts, but fewer traditional programmers, for example.

Workers affected by the first wave include technical architecture staff, IT service operations, infrastructure and technology specialists, and system engineers. Those based in NHS Digital’s Washington and Redditch offices are also affected, as well as anyone currently on pay bands 8d and 9.

Computer Weekly understands there will be more changes to come over the next two years. As part of the “organisational change”, each part of the organisation will come up with its own proposal for change, looking at its size, budget, current skills, skills needed and its size.

NHS Digital aims to have fewer permanent staff and a more flexible workforce, however, Computer Weekly understands that as none of the proposals has yet been completed, no redundancy numbers have been set so far.

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Sean Walsh, director of Org2, regions and professions, said the restructure is about “skilling up our workforce and rethinking our structure”.

“This will ensure that we have the deep skills and technical expertise to deliver the best service for our customers and also that our structure allows us to flex according to the needs of the health and care sector,” he said.

“We will partly do this through training and development for our staff, but we also know that we need to bring in new technical skills and to invest in new talent in terms of graduates and early career staff.”

In a document sent to affected staff members yesterday (13 August), seen by Computer Weekly, NHS Digital said the restructuring has resulted from challenges around “skills, shape and money”.

“NHS Digital needs to have a workforce with the right skills and capability, and of the right shape and right size, to deliver for its customers now and in the future,” the document said. “It must be affordable based on expected funding and be flexible to respond to future changes in requirements and funding. We do not believe that our current workforce meets these requirements.”

The document added that the organisation has explored the potential for reducing its size through natural turnover, but that this is not enough to guarantee NHS Digital will get to an “affordable size, with the right shape and skills, by the end of 2020/21”.

“We therefore believe that a managed programme of organisational redesign is necessary,” it said.

The document said that many staff have general or legacy skills that are no longer as relevant as they once were, and that more specialist skills are needed.

NHS Digital has promised that there will be potential for reskilling, but this will not cover the skills needed for the future.

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