Published: 05/12/2002, Volume112 No. 5834 Page 17

Those squeezed or ousted by reorganisation should have their cases heard The reorganisation of the NHS is bound to leave some of those involved battered and bruised. This week we report on how many middle managers feel let down by the arrangements put in place to safeguard careers when strategic health authorities and primary care trusts came into being (news focus, page 12).

The vast bulk of the evidence is still anecdotal - the disgruntled health service manager understands they will get little sympathy from their local paper or MP - but HSJ readers will know of at least one colleague who has taken a job they do not want, is still unplaced or has quit the service in despair.

The 12 months' protected employment that those affected will enjoy up to April 2003 is a good deal in many ways. But it has drawbacks. To put a career on hold for up to 12 months to see whether or not a good job - or indeed any job - is in the offing is very frustrating, stressful and potentially career limiting.

It would have been wrong to have offered voluntary redundancy packages upfront:

most of those concerned have skills the NHS needs. The loss of senior talent was bad enough; the service could not afford to have an even greater number of middle managers joining the exodus. However, it is plain that much more support should have been, and should still be, offered to those affected by reorganisation. Advice on career and financial planning - and personal support - should have been much more widely available.

As for the tales of favouritism, vindictiveness or 'surprise' salary reviews, they should be thoroughly investigated. As should the effectiveness of the appeals procedure.

There is some cause for optimism. Those who offer support report fewer cries for help. But they admit that this means that some managers will simply have given up hope, while others who have not found that helping hand grow ever more desperate.

HSJ stands willing and ready to investigate continuing problems. l