Winner: King's Healthcare trust Runner-up: Barts and the London trust

King's Healthcare trust

King's provides healthcare and emergency services for a socially diverse community in south-east London. It is also a major academic centre.

The HR department is centralised and includes HR advisers, education and development staff, medical staffing and a day nursery. HR managers are also members of their respective care management teams.

The trust wants to be an organisation that values the diversity of its staff and patients.

It aims to be a learning organisation that fosters life-long learning for staff.

These aims are translated into key objectives in its business plan that address issues such as work/home life balance, the development of terms and conditions, workforce development and reducing turnover.

The trust is informed of patient views through an annual patient survey and the HR department links in to this process.

The department conducts surveys of staff and line managers to assess its effectiveness and the impact of initiatives.

It has worked, with Unison and ACAS help, to improve staff skills and foster a collaborative approach to employee relations.

It also audits its relationships with organisations such as the royal colleges and the Department of Health.

The result of all this work is that trust nursing and midwifery numbers have increased from 1,461 to 1,538, while vacancies have reduced from 18 per cent to 16 per cent. Almost 80 per cent of staff think staff policies are generally helpful, compared to just 50 per cent in 1996-98.

The department has already been praised by external organisations. King's is the only London teaching trust to have Investors in People and junior doctors' hours accreditation.

It has Ofsted accreditation for its creche. It has been registered as a two-tick, 'positive about disability' employer. And it has been shortlisted for a national award for its KingsFlex range of work/life policies.

The judges said: King's has worked to change employee relations and the industrial climate which it used to face. There has also been a strong attempt to 'mainstream' HR management - and all the initiatives, significantly, have been appraised. There is a sensitive examination of why those from ethnically diverse backgrounds do not make progress within the organisation and plans to deal with this.

The emphasis on working/life balance, with the creche and flexible working, is also significant.

Barts and the London trust

This trust was formed in 1994 with a merger of three of London's most famous hospitals - the Royal Hospital of St Bartholomew, the Royal London Hospital at Whitechapel and the London Chest Hospital. In 1996, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital for Children joined.

The hospitals are situated in some of the most impoverished and ethnically diverse areas in the country.

Their strong history and traditions can conflict with the urgency of the modernisation agenda. It has also been a challenge to justify the trust's capital development strategy.

The trust carried out a major organisational change last year.

The HR department played a key role in designing and managing the changemanagement process.

The department has since reviewed its own role and responsibilities to ensure it is supporting the new structure.

The trust plays a key role in the local labour economy and liaises regularly with the local community. Under the banner 'local jobs for local people' it runs an annual job fair, maintains an access office, runs a multicultural week and has links to schools and job centres.

Initiatives involving existing staff are informed by the staff attitude survey, which is undertaken by the Institute of Employment Studies. Patient letters are also analysed to identify training issues.

The results of the department's work include measurable targets for the recruitment of ethnic minority groups, the creation of a 50-place nursery, work with Peabody Unite to develop affordable housing that should deliver 600 units to staff by Christmas, staff counselling services and a staff back pain clinic, a 50-place creche and full millennium staffing cover.

The judges said: This was an impressive application with a broadly based sense of the range of customers served by the HR department extending into a well thought-out community outreach.

We were impressed by the range of evidence of improvement, but would have liked to see rather more evidence of external comparison and benchmarking and more sense of the department's organisation and structure.