This year could be the best for the NHS in England for some time. Challenges will not be in short supply, including the 18-week target, infection control, foundation status and maintaining hard-won financial stability. However, it should be the first year for a while that is not dominated by financial crisis and structural change.

We also have a birthday to celebrate - we will be 60 in July. NHS birthdays are always tricky. On the one hand we want to celebrate an institution which, for all its faults, is one of the great achievements of political and social action, a vital part of our social fabric and of who we are.

On the other hand, most of us will be well aware of the dangers of complacency, the patients, carers and staff with little to celebrate and of the ever-present risk of political opportunism.

There is a way through this dilemma and HSJ's Working Lives section is the right place to make the suggestion. It would be wonderful if every NHS organisation took "working lives" as one of the themes of the celebration. Imagine if every board asked the people they are responsible for about the most important thing that could be done to improve life at work.

This should be an opportunity for partnership between government, NHS Employers, trade unions, royal colleges, universities, the NHS Confederation, the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement, the King's Fund, Health Foundation, Nuffield Trust and everyone else who cares about the NHS and its people, not forgetting the NHS Retirement Fellowship and those who have given a lifetime of service.

What better way to spend part of that surplus than looking after the people on whom everything depends - and I am not thinking of inflation-busting pay rises. What would be the top priority in your organisation? Improving line management? Feedback including appraisal? Training and development? Childcare? A route and branch focus on discrimination and bullying? Making a reality of the much-neglected code of conduct for managers?

Some excellent suggestions will emerge if we can cut through the understandable cynicism and convince people that we mean business.

NHS Confederation chief executive Gill Morgan has recently reminded us of the importance of devolution and the emergence of four versions of the NHS. She is absolutely right to make us think about this fundamental change. One of the many interesting pieces of work that I have the privilege to be doing is to facilitate a 'four home countries action learning set' with the chairs and chief executives of five NHS organisations. The learning is powerful.

As we assess the relative success of the four approaches we should not only look at waiting times and long-term care. One of the comparators should be working lives. Which NHS organisation has the happiest and most productive staff? Where is morale highest and why?

This year could be a celebration and a time for real progress in improving working lives.