PRINCE2 NHS Managers 

 July 28, 2020

By  Dave Litten

PRINCE2 Project Management in the NHS

PRINCE2 projects deliver products. The products (outputs) result in changes in the business or operational environment. The use of these outcomes allows the business to realize the benefits.

This focus ensures the project is planned and delivered from the start with a firm eye on realization of the benefits.

Put simply, the project outcome must have the full potential to deliver real benefits. The NHS operational managers along with the project manager, have a stake and responsibility in a successful project outcome.

If you are looking for promotion or a new job within the NHS, you have a huge variety of choices.

The Current NHS Structure

You may already be aware of the current NHS structure, and funding, but allow me to give a concise and short overview:

The four countries within the UK now have their own NHS services.

Nhs Prince2 Manager

To do this, responsibility for running the NHS in these four areas has been transferred from the MP’s in Westminster, that is, central government, to powers in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland

Each national government is allocated a block funding by the UK Parliament. However, it is the decision of each national government to decide how much they should spend on their specific NHS.

NHS England Structure

The Department for Health is the government department responsible for funding. It is they who must determine and create the policies relevant to UK Healthcare.

NHS England is the independent body that oversees healthcare. Consequently, the Department for Health cannot interfere directly with NHS England decisions.

Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG's) commission most of the hospital and community NHS services in the local areas for which they are responsible. 

CCG’s decide what services are needed for diverse local populations and ensure they are provided. They are run by GPs, nurses and consultants who assess local health needs and commission the services to meet them.

NHS Foundation Trusts provide the care that the CCGs commission.
These include:

  • Hospital
  • Ambulance
  • Mental health
  • Social care
  • Primary care services

NHS foundation trusts were created to devolve decision making from central government to local organisations and communities. They provide and develop healthcare according to core NHS principles - free care based on need and not ability to pay.

Dave Litten Prince2 Coach

Dave Litten

[ CEO & PRINCE2 Trainer ]

" Delivering projects successfully and managing change is at the beating heart of the UK National Health Service. Thanks to the evolving NHS structure it has become a far more lean and agile service. The efficient and effective use of limited funds is key. And change is everywhere. Those involved within projects will be looking for innovative approaches while harnessing firm control and the delivery of outcomes. Project Management within the NHS has a focus on outcomes – far more powerful than just a focus on ‘delivery’."

NHS Management Skills and Qualifications

So, what does an individual seeking a position within a project or a change initiative cover?

The wide range of skills, knowledge, experience, and expertise needed within the NHS makes this a complex answer – however, what is easier to nail down, are the general aspects of NHS project and change management environment.

The PRINCE2 Project Framework

Head and shoulders above all other management qualifications is use of the PRINCE2 Methodology for successful projects. Allow me to clarify:

PRINCE2 (Projects IN Controlled Environments) is one of the most widely used methods for managing projects in the world. 

It is a structured project management method based on experience drawn from thousands of projects and from the contributions of countless project sponsors, project managers, project teams, academics, trainers, and consultants.

PRINCE2 has been designed to be generic so that it can be tailored to any project regardless of project scale, type, organization, geography or culture. 


Why is PRINCE2 NHS the way to go?

PRINCE2 achieves this by:

  • Separating the management of project work from the specialist contributions, such as design or construction
  • The specialist aspects of any type of project are easily integrated with the PRINCE2 method and used alongside PRINCE2, provide a secure overall framework for the project work
  • focusing on describing what needs to be done, rather than prescribing how everything is done

PRINCE2 was originally owned by The APMG but is now owned by Axelos.

The NHS was an early adopter of PRINCE2, and the use and qualification of this method by NHS project managers has now become essential, even mandatory, for many if not most management job positions.

Management Jobs in the NHS

NHS jobs are divided into Bands. 

NHS Bands 5, 6, and 7 may all be involved in projects. The senior management Bands, 8a, 8b, 8c and 8d all need to have achieved PRINCE2 Practitioner level or equivalent.

Getting to an interview step of a job application is unlikely unless your CV or Resume includes PRINCE2 expertise. Your knowledge and experience will be tested at interview.

A swift trawl through the latest NHS project-related job openings proves the above points and I quote:

  • Qualified in or working towards PRINCE2 Foundation qualification
  • APM/PRINCE2 qualified
  • We need you to provide Project Management in line with PRINCE2 methodology, ensuring that the projects are clearly defined, prioritised, and managed to ensure timely successful outcomes
  • You will have an understanding of project controls using PRINCE2 Project Management Methodology
  • You must be able to ensure robust project control using the PRINCE2 Project Management Methodology
  • You will have a good working understanding of the PRINCE2 methodology and be able to support its principles through effective decision making
  • Qualification and experience in project management methodology to PRINCE2 Practitioner level or equivalent is required
  • Applicants should possess PRINCE2 Practitioner or equivalent professional project management qualification

That said, and in no specific order, here are the key attributes and job criteria trawled from several recent NHS job candidate positions:

  • In the thriving NHS environment, you will form part of a busy team, either delivering services directly, or delivering a variety of projects
  • You must be a self-starter and will be expected to hit the ground running while picking up key project activities then managing them through to resolution
  • You will be a dynamic, enthusiastic and resilient individual aspiring to develop a career within Project Management
  • In the fast-paced world of NHS projects and change, you must be experienced and enthusiastic. a competent, experienced and qualified Project Manager
  • You are able to establish, direct, and motivate project teams and deliver successful projects and realize benefits
  • An NHS project or change initiative will likely involve external third parties, and so supplier and other external relationships as required for successful delivery of the project outcomes. You will therefore be able to build relationships with internal and external suppliers and customers
  • In addition to good planning skills, you will ensure that all activities are undertaken in accordance with project plans, identify exceptions or off-target activities, escalate when required, and manage and assist with corrective action as necessary
  • In the NHS, resources and funding are paramount. You will demonstrate effective financial control of the project to ensure it delivers within budget, and that project cost records are maintained
  • Delivering on schedule is vital and so your allocated projects must be delivered safely on time/to cost/and of agreed quality criteria
  • Projects and change initiatives run in parallel with NHS service delivery, so you must be able to mitigate and control work activities so that they have as little impact on service delivery as possible
  • The NHS thrives on teamwork and communication. A project manager must prove excellent communication interpersonal and influencing skills. In addition, provide concise written reports. The job candidate must work effectively both within a team and independently
  • The Project reports upwards to senior management, outwards to other project teams, and to the specialists engaged with your project
  • You will also provide project management leadership and expert advice to project boards, project managers and project teams throughout the organisation to ensure that best practice, standards, tools and techniques are in place
  • You are responsible for report progress of the project to NHS senior managers and the Project Board
  • You will ensure that all activities are undertaken in accordance with project plans, identify exceptions or off-target activities, and initiate corrective actions as necessary
  • Issues and risks must be continually managed throughout the project to ensure project objectives are met. You will use good judgement and experience to identify issues that could put the project at risk and recommend appropriate mitigating actions
  • An understanding of delivering change initiatives in busy and demanding environments is expected, as you will be working in multiple project teams through the project lifecycle, while placing high quality patient care at the centre of all our decisions
  • You will have experience in project management techniques and should have excellent communication, negotiation, persuasion and influencing skills and be a strong project manager
  • You will have an understanding of delivering change initiatives in busy and demanding environments is expected, as you will be working in multiple project teams through the project lifecycle

These next two topics are growing areas of project management expertise needed within the NHS, although not yet widely spread …

The NHS Agile Approach

Many of the NHS project initiatives involve delivering innovative solutions, where the project is the vehicle for evolving such solutions. Many traditional projects are ‘predictive’ in nature and need traditional ‘waterfall’ approaches – such as building new facilities.

Yet others need a different project approach for developing innovative products and services.

Agile projects answers that growing need. 

At its heart is cross-functional, self-organizing specialist team within a framework for organizing and managing work. Such projects favour an adaptive and exploratory approach.

Agile NHS - Incremental and Iterative Development

The watchwords in an Agile project are to employ iterative and incremental service and product development.

Iterative development acknowledges that we will probably get things wrong before we get them right, and that we will do things poorly before we do them well. It is a planned rework strategy – using multiple passes to improve what we are building so we can converge on a good solution. 

Quite a refreshing change to ‘plan it all upfront and deliver to the plan’ – don’t you think?

Incremental development has the principle of build some of it before you build all of it – the reverse of the traditional project ‘big bang’.

Instead we break the product or service development into smaller pieces, build some of it, learn how each piece is to survive in the environment in which it must exist, adapt based on what we learn, and then build more of it.

Examples of such projects here would include clinical trials projects and other research and development initiatives.

Technical Debt

A new phrase has emerged called Technical Debt. Much like credit card debt, it is important to pay off the interest as soon as possible to avoid paying huge sums of interest – or worse, becoming insolvent.

In the same way, the delivery of NHS products and services, including processes, have hidden debts. Agile incorporates technical (specialist) debt removal.

NHS Lean Six Sigma

Have you ever wondered how many processes are used within an organization such as the NHS?

Just think about the various NHS activities that use processes – managerial, logistical, clinical, operational, administrative, physical, electronic, hardware, software …the list is endless. This applies to whether they are existing processes that need to be tightened up, or to work on the reduction of errors and defects, or to fix inefficiencies.

And how about new processes that are envisaged or needed?

These processes either feed from, or drive to, all the NHS products and services.

Lean Six Sigma enhances business efficiency and reduces waste.

Lean Six Sigma manages projects more tightly and fine-tunes existing systems

Lean Six Sigma projects use the DMAIC framework (Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve and Control) to improve existing processes.

Lean Six Sigma zeroes in on your external and internal customers needs to determine process measurements and improvements.

Prince2 Nhs Managers Management

It allows you to unclog your pipes by identifying process bottlenecks and improve process flows to get things done better, faster and with less effort. Sound familiar?

The Way Ahead For Your NHS Management Career

Re-read those example job postings above.

That criteria is what the NHS is looking for right now for its assistant project managers and project managers.

I have a solution to enhance your NHS career right now.

NHS PRINCE2 Flashlight Focus

I want to give you TWO FREE resources that I guarantee will fast-track you on your PRINCE2 Foundation and Practitioner path

First, I have put together a great downloadable resource on your path to become knowledgeable about the PRINCE2 Method, and taking your Foundation Exam

Your NHS PRINCE2 Flashlight Focus - Go HERE for instant access …


NHS PRINCE2 Roadmap Video

Second, as a PRINCE2 Coach, Trainer (and ex-examiner!), I have developed my amazing PRINCE2 Roadmap, 30-minute video that will jet-power your PRINCE2 process knowledge. 

It will open your eyes to exactly how PRINCE2 works.

The PRINCE2 official manual will now make much easier reading! You are on your way to PRINCE2 Practitioner!

PRINCE2 NHS Coaching Programme

I also offer one-to-one PRINCE2 Foundation and Practitioner Coaching for the NHS. It includes full access to ALL of our project management training courses as well.

So if you absolutely MUST become a PRINCE2 Practitioner within the next few weeks and failure is not an option, then check out my PRINCE2 Practitioner Coaching Programme here: 

Nhs Prince2 Coaching Sequence

Dave Litten

David spent 25 years as a senior project manager for USA multinationals, and has deep experience in project management. He now develops a wide range of Project Management Masterclasses, under the Projex Academy brand name. In addition, David runs project management training seminars across the world, and is a prolific writer on the many topics of project management.

The Projex Academy

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