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NHS NWLA Membership Briefing July 2020

This membership briefing serves to update, reconnect and inform you, as a member organisation, about the future for the NHS North West Leadership Academy as we enter the recovery phase of the Covid-19 crisis and beyond.

Current position

While national and regional activity was officially suspended for 16 weeks, the majority of NHS NWLA staff were deployed to the North West Workforce & HR Cell and the Bringing Back Staff recruitment campaign to support the Covid-19 response, with a skeleton staff maintaining NHS NWLA business critical functions.

From 1st July 2020 all NHS NWLA staff have returned to their substantive posts and we are now in the process of reviewing our business plan in this ‘new world’ context.


Prior to the Covid-19 crisis and following publication of the NHS Interim People Plan, colleagues from health service and social care bodies across the North West had met to consider how best to deliver the ambitions of the interim plan across the region. This included the NHS NWLA, NHS England, NHs Health Education England, Academic Health Science Networks, ICS Workforce Leads, Chair of the NW HR Directors’ Network, Association of Directors of Adult Social Services and Skills for Care.

Discussions were focused on developing a shared vision, creating a collaborative approach to delivery, ensuring clarity on what each would deliver, identifying and understanding synergies and interdependencies. Oversight of the work was to be via the North West People Board (not yet established) with the aim of providing clarity on the workforce agenda across the North West, avoiding duplication of effort and making most effective use of public monies.

Covid-19 crisis

In response to Covid-19, a Workforce & HR Cell was created in the North West led by a partnership of Anthony Hassall, Regional Chief People Officer/Director of Workforce and OD at NHS England North West, Christopher Cutts, Regional Director North West at Health Education England and Deborah Davis, Managing Director of the NHS North West Leadership Academy. Key workstreams were developed relating to all aspects of workforce (e.g. Bringing Back Staff, Health and Wellbeing, support to HR Directors and ICS Workforce Leads) with a Programme Management Office (PMO) co-ordinating and supporting. The partnership worked exceptionally well with all teams working together seamlessly across organisational boundaries in a spirit of regional collaboration.

Recovery phase and beyond

As the region began to enter the recovery phase of the Covid-19 response, those leading the Workforce & HR Cell considered the transition to becoming a North West ‘People Team’ and continuing the discussions that had been held pre-Covid. There was recognition that a more joined up approach had been experienced with teams working to a shared purpose where formal and informal hierarchies were put aside and guiding principles were about altruism and reciprocity. True collaboration and an environment of creativity and innovation had been created and all parties wished to build on the benefits of this way of working for the future.

The intention is to progress with the creation of a virtual North West People Team, which brings together all aspects of workforce but does not require any change to organisational structures. With oversight and governance provided by the North West People Board and associated sub boards, a PMO will be formed to co-ordinate and report on activity carried out by the component teams whilst minimising requirements for additional reporting. The PMO will also provide access to specialist support that each organisation can utilise, for example data analysis and communications expertise.

Updated: Click here to find out more about the North West People Programme that has evolved from the Workforce and HR Cell. Summary notes from North West People Board can be viewed here: September 2020, December 2020 and February 2020 (coming soon).

NHS NWLA Member’s Model

In considering future ways of working, all parties have been mindful and supportive of the NHS NWLA’s longstanding and highly effective member’s model, independent board and FT hosted arrangement which have contributed to its reputation as a safe and trusted space for all aspects of leadership and talent development in the region. There is commitment to ensuring this is not destabilised in any way while providing ‘a seat at the table’ and giving the NHS NWLA the opportunity to strategically influence the future leadership, talent and workforce agendas in the region.

The intention is for the NHS NWLA Board to be combined with the North West Regional Talent Board and operate as a sub board to the North West People Board. Arrangements will be appropriately managed including a ‘members’ only’ section on the agenda to ensure decision-making in relation to the use of member fees is protected.

Future NHS North West Leadership Academy activity

The NHS North West Leadership Academy receives national funding via the People Directorate within NHSE and is part of the Leadership and Life-long Learning Team (LLL Team), reporting nationally via Jacqueline Davies recently appointed as national Director. Currently the North West team are reviewing and revising the business plan and NHS NWLA member support offers to ensure relevance in the Covid-19 recovery phase including working with development providers to enable the digitalisation of learning. A sub-group of the North West HRD Network is working closely with the NHS NWLA on this activity and engagement with all parts of the system is planned to ensure the NHS NWLA remains at the forefront of innovative leadership development and relevant to the emerging landscape during recovery and beyond.


Following discussion with NHS NWLA board members it was agreed that the organisation will continue with a joint operating model (receiving national funds, member fees and local funding), remain hosted by Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust with a tripartite governance arrangement and will become an integral part of the People Team across the North West, placing it in a prime position to influence and enhance the leadership development agenda on behalf of its members.


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