Getwell Hospital is situated in a small town on the south coast of England. Due to recent reorganisation it is now one of several hospitals in the Southcoast hospital group. As a result some patient services such as making appointments and some administrative services such as HR have been centralised in Eastwind Hospital, a larger more modern hospital several miles away.
Many of the people living in Getwell’s catchment area had retired to the seaside so the majority of the patients are aged over 60. Whilst it is pleasant living by the sea in the summer, the weather is cold and windy in the winter and the hospital sometimes finds it difficult to cope with the demands made on it by elderly and frail patients at that time of the year. In addition the take up of the flu vaccine this winter has been lower than last year as some elderly people believe that it doesn’t work.
The hospital is housed in a crumbling Victorian building which is difficult to keep clean and still has some big wards, unlike most modern hospitals and the hospital itself is not as pleasant to work in as hospitals in nearby towns. In addition a recent inspection gave the hospital a low score on hygiene and MRSA despite extra money being spent on cleaning staff and patients being routinely screened on admission.
The hospital’s management team has noticed that there are increasing problems in ensuring that a number of key positions are staffed with good quality employees. In particular finding enough qualified and experienced nurses to work on the crowded geriatric wards is a serious problem. There is also a shortage of other professionally trained staff, such as physiotherapists, pharmacists and radiotherapists. In fact the only areas where there are no shortages of staff are in the hospital shop and refreshment counters, as these are normally staffed by volunteers.
The problem does not lie with attracting the qualified staff the hospital needs. As the NHS is currently making cut backs to save money there are fewer jobs about and there is no shortage of good applicants for every job that is advertised. The problem is with getting them to stay. For example, the university in the nearby large town runs a course leading to a nursing qualification and many nurses complete the practical part of their qualification at Getwell Hospital. On completing their qualification many of the nurses join the permanent staff but most don’t stay for very long. Once they have gained sufficient experience to allow them to apply for jobs in London or to work abroad they resign from their jobs at Getwell Hospital and do not stay long enough for the hospital to benefit from the experience they have gained whilst working there. The same thing happens with other staff – they seem to be using Getwell Hospital as a stepping stone to jobs elsewhere and only stay long enough to get the experience they need to move on.
In addition to the problems in retaining the nurses there are worries about the implications of Brexit and the ending of bursaries that used to be paid to trainee nurses. With fewer nurses entering the profession and a large number of nurses leaving for other jobs or retiring the Chief Executive is concerned that the middle managers of the wards will not have enough nurses in the future to fully staff every shift.
Working on the wards was often very stressful due to the current staff shortages resulting from the high turnover and the demanding nature of the work. Elderly and infirm people need a lot of care and as often confused and disorientated when hospitalised.
The hospital decided to engage the services of a consultant who designed a staff satisfaction survey. All members of staff, including the nurses, filled in the questionnaire, hoping that the managers would respond to their complaints. For example, days that had been set aside for training the new nurses often had to be postponed due to staff shortages and there seemed to be problems in some wards, with some nurses not getting on very well with the ward managers. When people went off sick, which happened rather frequently, the managers did not seem to be very interested in finding out why.
However, nothing changed as a result of the survey and the turnover rate remains higher than that of other hospitals nearby.
The hospital is experiencing many problems as a result of these high levels of turnover and sickness. In order to keeps the wards running, the hospital recruited a number of nurses from abroad. Though they were highly qualified and skilled, the nurses often spoke English with an accent that the elderly people, many of whom had impaired hearing, had a problem understanding. Another way of keeping the wards fully staffed is by using agency nurses especially on the less popular shifts. These nurses only worked one or two shifts at the hospital so they did not know much about the hospital’s routines and did not know any of the patients’ names. In some cases, the ‘agency’ shifts are filled by the hospital’s regular staff working double shifts to earn extra money. This makes it more likely than mistakes are made due to tiredness and is not a satisfactory long-term solution.
THE CURRENT SITUATION
It is clear that Getwell hospital has a number of serious issues involving staffing and the number of complaints made to the hospital management are increasing.
Recently a series of complaints from patients were upheld and the hospital has had to pay out large amounts of compensation due to staff performance issues. In addition, the number of disputes between staff and the hospital has escalated, resulting in managers having to spend a considerable amount of time on employment tribunals. In many cases the hospital has had to pay compensation to staff who were unfairly dismissed or discriminated against. Some staff even left and then claimed constructive dismissal.
The Chief Executive is seriously concerned at this evidence of poor management and, after investigation, has dismissed twenty senior and middle, mainly ward managers on grounds of capability. He has now come to HR to discuss how to recruit, select, reward and develop the replacement managers to ensure that they manage their teams more effectively than the managers they have replaced.
An HR consultant (you) has been retained on a short term contract to help Getwell Hospital employ the best possible managers to replace the ones that have been dismissed. The unseen exam questions will cover the areas where HR advice is needed.
1. As the consultant you feel that Getwell Hospital should have a professional HR manager employed permanently in the hospital rather than relying on advice given by an HR team at Eastwind Hospital which is situated 20 miles away. The Chief Executive and his senior management team are not convinced that this is necessary and are unwilling to fund an HR post at Getwell.. They want you to set out the reasons why you feel that an HR manager at Getwell essential to ensure that the hospital doesn’t suffer a repeat of the problems it is currently suffering.
2. Write a report to Chief Executive and the senior management team setting out your argument for employing a permanent HR manager at Getwell hospital.. Explain the advantages and disadvantages of having a local HR manager versus an HR team at the main hospital 20 miles away. You need to explain how the hospital will benefit and what could go wrong if there is no permanent professional HR manager at Getwell in the future
3. Look for the HR issues involved and think about the reasons why these situations have occurred.
4. Think about ways of improving the situation
5. Prepare your answer by researching the issues. You will need to show evidence that you
have read the relevant chapters in the core text book as well as other relevant books and journal articles.
WHAT are the issues?
Focus on the facts of the case study
WHY do you think they are issues?
Focus on the theory
HOW will you resolve these issues
6. Evidence of reading and research for preparing your answer to this question is required. You do this by referencing your sources.