Published: 19/08/2004, Volume II4, No. 5919 Page 26

A new bond between leaders and staff will be a hallmark of foundation trusts - and a challenge for HR

'What about the workers!' may not yet be the cry ringing through the corridors of power as a result of the latest NHS reorganisation - the foundation trust.But it is certainly on my mind as University College London Hospitals foundation trust nears the end of its first few weeks of existence.

How can foundation trusts capture the imaginations of staff in the same way that a whole nation was entranced by Euro 2004? The Greek people's reaction to winning was considerably more joyful than the one exhibited by the 100,000 NHS workers hearing the news that they are now members of a foundation trust.But why?

Having shared the streets of Athens after midnight with a million Greeks celebrating becoming European champions, I think the answer is identity. I am determined to secure a version of this joy among staff at UCLH.

The early years for the foundation trust movement have been dominated by parliamentary controversy.Those of us with new governing councils are wrestling with what and how much can change for the better.Success will have many markers, but they must include vastly improved working lives, with better services for patients as a result.

The NHS plan's patient, public and staff consultation produced similar priorities - in a nutshell, more staff, less waiting.

The composition of members'councils bodes well for the consensus, which will drive strategic development.

Getting staffing right is at the top of the agenda.

Patients, stakeholders and staff are now full participants in determining where UCLH's eight hospitals - six when we move into the brand new hospital - should be going.

This is a big advance for staff from the classic joint monthly committee cycle focused on specific employee relations matters.Staff involvement in decision-making at all levels - 'beyond partnership'as I have called it - will characterise the culture created by the new constitution.

The much-vaunted shift away from Whitehall means foundation trust leaders will be able to get closer to their staff and deploy greater innovation to design and implement solutions to tackle labour market challenges.

These challenges are great - the NHS workforce is seeking to grow to the same size as the population of Kyoto (1.4 million). In practice, this means better facilities, more rewarding careers and new ways of working.These are options available to all now - but they must be delivered faster.

David Amos is director of workforce at University College London Hospitals foundation trust and formerly deputy director of HR at the Department of Health.He will be writing a regular column on the HR challenges of a foundation trust.