Health department backs flexible working for NHS in England

BMJ 1999; 319 doi: (Published 16 October 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;319:1026
  1. Douglas Carnall
  1. BMJ

    The chief executive of the NHS Executive, Sir Alan Langlands, told health service managers in England last week that they must adopt flexible, “family friendly” working practices.

    Sir Alan was launching a consultation document, Improving Working Lives, which spells out the Department of Health's £1m ($1.6m) initiative to spearhead practical change.

    “The consequences of failure are already with us,” said Sir Alan. “If we could hold on to just 1% of the nurses who have left we would have 3000 extra nurses in the service, and if we cut NHS sick leave by just 1% we would save £140m each year.”

    More than 70% of NHS expenditure is on staff costs, and more than 90% of NHS staff are women, so family friendly measures such as creches and after school clubs are important.

    Sir Alan emphasised, how-ever, that this was not just about women with families. “We need to cater for the needs and aspirations of every member of staff, including those coming to terms with a disability, those who wish to embark on new educational ambitions, and those winding down before retirement,” he said.

    He called for comments on the department's statement A Draft Working Lives Standard, which outlines what NHS organisations need to do to enable staff to balance work with their other responsibilities.

    Improving Working Lives is available from the Department of Health, PO Box 777, London SE1 6XH.

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