Jon Lenney was employer-side chair of the NHS Staff Council for over ten years. During this time, he has been instrumental in helping employers and trade unions to reach agreements on pay, terms and conditions of service and good practice guidance.
In this blog, Jon reflects on this role and his ambitions for the NHS Staff Council since stepping down as employer-side chair.
Being on the NHS Staff Council has been a major part of my working life over the last 12 years, having first joined as an employer representative back in 2011. Since that time, I’m lucky to have worked with many fantastic and talented colleagues, including fellow NHS Staff Council members as well as colleagues at NHS Employers and the Department of Health and Social Care.
I was given the opportunity of becoming the NHS Staff Council employer-side chair in 2013, a role that’s been both enjoyable and rewarding, albeit challenging at times. I’m proud to have been part of an important social partnership between government, employers and trade unions which helps to ensure that the terms and conditions package remains fit for the present and the future of over one million NHS employees.
I believe we have collectively achieved important reforms to the pay and conditions package and, at the same time, delivered many high-quality outputs in the form of good practice guidance for NHS employers, trade unions and employees.
Over the years there have been a number of significant challenges. I joined the Staff Council in the aftermath of the ‘financial crash’ of 2008, which put significant pressure on government finances and limited the NHS spending plans. That context made investment in workforce generally more difficult, and I think it made reform of pay and conditions more challenging.
The other major challenge was the COVID-19 pandemic. I believe the Staff Council played a vital role in supporting and advocating for the NHS workforce through both of these challenges.
Through partnership working, the NHS Staff Council has been uniquely placed to negotiate workable solutions to many of the barriers around retention and recruitment of staff within Agenda for Change occupations. It also has well-established mechanisms in place, enabling the discussion of matters which impact the NHS, and a strong track record of delivering well-supported joint agreements on a wide range of pay and conditions issues. These agreements have benefitted staff and employers, as well as patients and service users over many years.
On a personal level, I hope that the Staff Council continues to develop Agenda for Change as a single-status pay and conditions package enjoyed by most NHS workers. When I first joined the Staff Council I was working as Exec Director of Human Resources and OD with Andrew Foster as my Chief Executive. Andrew was one the principal architects of Agenda for Change, and like him, I’m old enough to remember the disadvantages of trying to manage workforce development and employee relations against a back-drop of numerous and inconsistent packages.
As someone who is currently a workforce director in a local care organisation, I would also like to see some progress towards an integrated pay strategy for health and care. However, I don’t underestimate the challenges of achieving that.
The profile of the NHS Staff Council has probably never been higher and I’m confident it will continue to play a vital role in supporting the development of the NHS workforce and the experience of its employees.
The Staff Council is well-led by Sara Gorton and Oonagh Monkhouse, and is well-supported by colleagues at NHS Employers; I know it will continue to draw upon the expertise and experience of many talented people to succeed in the future.
Chairing the NHS Staff Council has been a privilege and a pleasure, and I hope I have done it justice.