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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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We found out about this from public news sources. Not all those affected got any kind of communication from NHS Digital.
In any other large organisation this would be seen as an opportunity for a reskilling programme to help deliver the skills of the future. In the NHS it is likely to be as badly managed as the replacement of the NHSIA by the National Plan for IT. That led to basic administration, let alone IT development, being crippled for 18 months because staff declined to move from Exeter to Leeds and left instead. In many hospital trusts the NHS is still failing to deliver functionality, quality,reliability of service akin to that in 2002. Albeit the "average" may well be better. 
Has NHS Digital checked that there are the staff available with the appropriate skill set willing to work for the pay the 'budgets will permit'? There is a large skill shortage in these areas at the moment, and I suspect that next March will not make it any easier.
There is no skills shortage – NHS Digital are deploying a dew data platform. The directors have not yet decided which software will be used. Hence staff have not been trained on it!
And yet the organisation still continue to lure in young graduates with the promise of 'permanent' work after the scheme? Absolutely disgusting practice. Trying to solve your financial problems with a bright, willing workforce who will do the work at a fraction of the price is just truly revolting. Has the organisation learnt anything from its past?
Sarah Wilkinson is a joke. She was a failure at The Home Office and a failure so far at NHS Digital. Yet she continues to win awards for being a top CEO. I have no idea how....
Totally agree, utter joke, never visits head office, and trusts some of the very people responsible for the mess, to fix it. It needs a whole new executive management team.
Few years ago the Exec team decided to implement assignments and professions changing everyones job specs to generic roles. Majority of staff in the organisation disagreed with this but had no choice.

It is the people on the ground that are being penalised for decisions made by the exec team. Yet they get to keep their jobs!....ironic. 

The reality of the situation is this.... the leaders messed up big time in there decision making. 

The leaders have not mentioned 300 staff sat on their backsides for a whole year without assignments and still getting paid. What exactly was the leaders doing bar going and playing golf during work hours and getting away with it.  Disgusting!

Now CEO wants a flexible workforce which means bringing in contractors or outsourcing paving there way to privatization of NHS.  How can you justify bringing in contractors or outsourcing  as value for money? 

Mark my words this is just another con to get rid of some highly experienced staff that do way above and beyond there job roles. Extra hours are put in to deliver outcomes without any recognition or or renumeration for their services. 

Dont get me wrong there is some staff that dont pull their weight but even the unions have disagreed with the approach taken by leadership team. 

No common sense prevails in the exec team. Ask my opinion, start with the restructure by getting rid if the exec team and the CEO and NHS Digital will flourish with the right exec and leadership.

Penalizing the people on the ground is basically  saying these staff dont have the right skills. The truth is it was bad decisions made my the leadership exec team and others will suffer for their bad management.

Transparency in the organisation is joke. The leadership team are not telling the truth at all.

The truth is.... privatisation of the NHS Digital is coming and soon after it will be the entire NHS.  Shame really to see that happening.