The commissioning reforms are likely to affect workforce morale and motivation for “a couple of years at least”, NHS managers have been warned.

NHS Commissioning Board director of human resources Jo-Anne Wass told the Managers in Partnership conference in Birmingham today the morale and motivation problems caused by the reorganisation would not end in April. That is when primary care trusts will be abolished and new organisations take over.

Ms Wass told members of the Managers in Partnership union: “There is a danger that we all think there is an end in sight. We need to bear in mind, whether it is the financial context we are talking about or the changes that have happened, these things will go on for quite a while, a couple of years at least.

“The change curve is going to be much deeper and longer than we have been used to in the past.

“We are going to have an on-going motivation and morale challenge and we are going to need strategies and plans to deal with this.”

She said managers should make sure they had a good work-life balance and create the right environment for their staff.

Speaking to HSJ after her speech Ms Wass said: “The technical changes [from the reforms] will be in place by 1 April next year but it will take much longer to get them embedded and working effectively. There will still be a lot of work to do after April.

“Managers will still need to support staff. This is such a big change, and such a big set of complicated changes to the whole system.”

She said staff can take a long time to mentally adapt to changes and added: “It will take longer this time [than for previous reorganisation] because it is so much more complicated.”

Meanwhile, Ms Wass told the conference a key challenge for managers in 2013 would be the report of Robert Francis’s public inquiry into failings at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust.

She said: “One thing [which] is clear is that he [Francis] will say that we [NHS staff] didn’t listen. We didn’t listen to patients, we didn’t listen to staff and we didn’t listen to carers.”