Published: 16/01/2003, Volume II3, No. 5838 Page 11

The Department of Health has published the ambitious Human Resources Strategy for Health Informatics Professionals to improve recruitment and stem the flow of skilled staff to the private sector.

The strategy defines health informatics as the knowledge, skills and tools that enable information to be collected, managed and used to support healthcare, and says there are now 20,000 NHS staff working in this area.

However, there are problems in recruiting and retaining staff at all levels. These are most acute for the more senior posts, for which salaries are typically 30-50 per cent lower than in the private sector. The IM&T recruitment and retention survey 2000 found that 43 per cent of staff leave for similar posts in the private sector.

Pay is not the only issue, however. The survey found staff thinking of moving jobs saw lack of training and development and poor working conditions as even bigger problems.

In response, the strategy says pay will be addressed as part of the Agenda for Change negotiations, and working conditions as part of the Improving Working Lives programme.

But it sets out an ambitious strategy for training and development. All health informatics staff should have a personal development plan by the end of the year and courses will be commissioned to fill gaps.

In addition, a fast-track programme, developed with suppliers, will give 10 per cent of health informatics staff managerial and leadership skills. It should be available from July.

All staff should have, or be working towards, a recognised professional qualification by 2005.

The strategy says that a register of professional competence will be established and run by the NHS Information Authority until it can be passed on to an appropriate independent body.

Eventually, health informatics staff will have to show evidence of continuing professional development to stay on the register.

Making Information Count: a human resources strategy for health informatics professionals. www. doh. gov. uk/ipu/whatnew