Published: 03/02/2005, Volume II4, No. 5941 Page 38

A combination of nearly clocking up the first year in a new job together with the start of a new year has given me the urge to reminisce. Incidentally, I do wonder when, precisely, a new job turns into an old one and will keep you posted.

However, I do know that there appears to be a significant step change in a new job between weeks four and five. Possibly something to do with learning at last how to use the internal phone system and colleagues expecting you to start delivering, not watching.

This reflection is also prompted by the launch of NHS Employers, the growing expectation that foundation trusts should be demonstrating distinction and by my own University College London Hospitals foundation trust counting down the days before moving into its brand new hospital. The NHS is also expecting another national human resources strategy - the third since 1999 - some time in May. The original Working Together, which heralded More Staff Working Differently , is to be followed by Delivery Time.

I thought I would start my look back in 1996, with the publication of the national NHS strategy entitled A Service With Ambitions . What is remarkable is how much has changed, as at that point the staffing formula designed to deliver improved patient care was a simple concoction of promoting professional development, building teams and redeploying training budgets. Nothing about pay and improving working lives, and nothing about the need for more staff to improve the quality and accessibility of patient services.

In 1999, Working Together captured the NHS's first ever dedicated workforce strategy. It bravely introduced the connection between getting staffing right and the provision of patient services - a quality workforce, with better working conditions and more HR management capability.

Shockingly for some, it even suggested that we should have targets, objectives and measures. It was a national agenda for local implementation with central support.

And now we are in the midst of a gigantic programme of change - a result of five years of investment and initiatives to make the NHS earn a reputation as the employer of choice. A programme that is keeping HR professionals, line managers, individual staff and their representatives extremely busy - busy with the implementation of Agenda for Change , the raised bar for Improving Working Lives and how to secure workforce diversity and productivity gain.

For some, the temptation to complain about the intensity and spike of the workforce agenda is too great to resist.

I suggest that we should try to relish the overload, because it is the product of successful campaigning over a number of years to have staffing recognised as the bottom line. HR professionals and line managers need to find ways to make the current agenda work - and to argue that it is possible.

The Spring 2005 HR strategy needs to give credit for current demands on time and management - and recognition that those on this watch have extra to do for the benefit of those leading in the years ahead. It should focus on delivery and benefits realisation - guaranteeing that concepts and aspirations turn into reality.

David Amos is director of workforce at University College London Hospitals foundation trust and former Department of Health deputy director of HR.