New Chief People Officer to help build the NHS workforce of the future

We, along with NHS England, have appointed Prerana Issar to the role of Chief People Officer.

The new position is part of the NHS Executive Group and will play a leading role in ensuring the NHS in England has enough people, with the right skills and experience to deliver the improvements for patients set out in the NHS Long Term Plan.

Prerana combines senior public service experience with strong skills from the private sector. She joins from the United Nations, where she was the Chief Human Resources Officer for the World Food Programme for four years, after which she took on the role of Director for Public-Private Partnerships for the past two years. During her tenure as head of Human Resources, Prerana led the development of the UN’s first strategic human capital approach, as well as the reform of many key policies.

Prior to the United Nations, Prerana worked for more than 15 years at Unilever PLC, starting with them in India, and then for several years was in global roles at the Unilever headquarters in London. Her last role in Unilever was Vice-President HR for the Global Foods business. Prerana brings a wealth of expertise in leadership development and strategic talent management, as well as diversity and inclusion. She is a passionate and committed advocate for diversity at all levels and all jobs, and applies this lens to people-related decisions, policies and processes.

Prerana’s work will be critical to delivering the vision for the next ten years that we set out in the NHS Long Term Plan. To deliver on this vision of 21st century care will not simply require ‘more of the same’ but a fundamental shift in the skill mix, types of roles, culture and ways of working for our workforce.

As Chief People Officer, Prerana will take over from Julian Hartley and lead the development of the workforce implementation plan which will enable this fundamental shift. To do this, she will work closely with organisations across the NHS, including our regional teams, local systems, national bodies and trade unions.

‘I’m looking forward to working closely with colleagues, staff groups and trades unions to help develop a coherent and forward-thinking approach across the NHS, as well as with local leaders to help secure the workforce they require to meet the specific needs of local people, now and into the future.’

Prerana Issar

‘I am delighted that we have put our staff centre stage in our new structure with the creation of a Chief People Officer and to have secured a world-class leader who will bring her skills and experience into the NHS. Prerana has a track record of delivering real change in complex settings and I have already been struck by the passion she shows for tackling the NHS’s workforce challenges.’

Ian Dalton, Chief Executive, NHS Improvement

‘There is now wide recognition that support for our workforce is now one of the top issues facing the NHS – promoting flexibility, wellbeing and career development, and redoubling our efforts to address discrimination, violence, bullying and harassment. Prerana will bring truly global experience and demonstrable passion to this important new role.’

Simon Stevens, Chief Executive, NHS England

The NHS Long Term Plan set out a number of concrete actions to deliver the workforce of the future, including:

  • providing funding for 5,000 more nurse clinical placements from 2019/20, a 25% increase
  • improving nurse retention by at least 2% by 2025, equivalent to an extra 12,400 nurses
  • bringing in new national arrangements to support NHS organisations to recruit staff from overseas
  • shaping a modern employment culture for the NHS, extending the Workforce Race Equality Standard to 2025 and redoubling efforts to tackle bullying, harassment and violence
  • providing increased investment each year, for the next five years, in Continuous Professional Development (following agreement of the Health Education England training budget)
  • supporting improvements in regional workforce planning, with us, Health Education England and NHS Employers working together with local employers

Further action will be detailed in a workforce implementation plan, which will be drawn up when the funding available for additional investment in the workforce, through the Health Education England budget, has been set by government.

The national workforce group will oversee the delivery of these plans. In addition to new NHS Chief People Officer, the NHS National Medical Director, and the Chief Nursing Officer, it will include other Chief Professions Officers (including the first ever Chief Midwifery Officer), as well as representatives from staff groups like Royal Colleges and trades unions.