dave litten PRINCE2 coach

Dave Litten

[ CEO & PRINCE2 Trainer ]

Project Management in the NHS

" Thinking of moving your NHS career up a notch and moving into project management?
Okay, first up, let me give you an introduction to the different levels of training and development within the NHS.
These will depend on your current working level, but whatever your project management role is right now, gaining management qualifications will enhance your career prospects and management performance.
Such training (which will differ for each type of management of course), is encouraged throughout the NHS."

The Association for Project Management (APM)

The most recognized project management qualifications comes from the Association for Project Management (APM).

The APM is the only chartered body for the project profession, with over 30,000 individual members and more than 500 organisations participating in our Corporate Partnership Programme.

The APM are committed to developing and promoting the value of project management in order to deliver improved project outcomes for the benefit of society.

The Association for Project Management provides three NHS relevant project management courses:

APM Project Fundamentals Qualification (APM PMF)

This qualification is for NHS staff who have held NHS project management roles for up to two years, or have recently taken on project management responsibilities as part of their current job.

The APM PMF is the perfect qualification for any one starting out of the project management career. It may be that an individual is seeking to add project management to their resume of skills, knowledge and experience.

Find out more on gaining your APM PMF here

APM Project Management Qualification (APM PMQ)

This qualification is for Project Managers, project co-ordinators or team leaders with experience managing non-complex projects.
The APM PMQ is the ideal starting point for experienced professionals looking to show and prove their ability to plan, manage and deliver successful projects

Find out more about gaining your APM PMQ here

APM Practitioner Qualification (PQ)

This is for senior managers and management professionals within the NHS.

Such individuals will already have no extensive project management experience with a proven track record of delivering successful NHS business initiatives.

Likely candidates would include experienced professionals, project and programme directors, and senior project managers.

The NHS Graduate management training scheme

The NHS Graduate Management Training Scheme is an intensive programme, and provides each individual with real responsibility within real jobs alongside management education.

This NHS training scheme also covers a comprehensive scheme includes a thorough induction and orientation to the NHS, work placements and, on the General Management Training and time working with other healthcare organisations within the UK.
In addition, trainees can gain postgraduate qualifications in project management, health care or general management.

Individuals will be given opportunity to specialise in:

  • General management
  • Financial management
  • Informatics
  • Human Resource management
  • Primary care services

An NHS Overview of Project Management

Unlike operational management, a project is a unique undertaking with a start and finish date. They are planned with a specific outcome, delivered and then closed.

Projects are used to manage change, either as an improvement of existing products and services, or to create new products and services.

As an example, building a new facility is a project. Whereas running the facility after it is built, is operational management.


This is different to the project management certifications mentioned above.

PRINCE2 is a framework to deliver successful projects. It is a process-driven method and the processes cover from just before the start of the project until project closure.

PRINCE2 is a powerful project management method that helps users plan and control their projects effectively. It has been used extensively within the NHS, however it can be used for any project in any industry. It harnesses a powerful technique called product-based planning.

Find out more on gaining your PRINCE2 NHS Qualification HERE

PRINCE2 is a structured method that gives a clear but very flexible approach to running projects and builds the things that work well. It helps you do the job of running a project and avoiding project failure.

Regardless of the project management approach you use within the NHS, for example the six stage project management approach outlined below or PRINCE2, it can be enhanced with the use of the tools outlined below.

The six-stage NHS project management approach

The six-stage NHS project management approach shown below provides a framework for managing improvement projects in the NHS:

nhs project management approach

Remember, that since each project is unique, you would expect to tailor this approach to suit each individual project.

In this article I will deal with the first step – Start Out.

Start out – what is the opportunity or problem? 

The desired output will be a clear scope of the problem and support for the improvement activity.

First, you will want to identify the service, area, pathway or process that needs to be improved.

This may be identified by national initiatives, such as:

  • best practice tariff
  • an individual or team
  • targets
  • data demonstrating that a process is not consistently delivered to expected
  • required levels
  • quality improvement enhancing patient experience

First Activities

Identification of frustrating problems and a few key individuals, including those at a senior level. These may be:

  • Sponsor
  • Clinicians
  • Executives

It could be those on the frontline delivering the service such as porters or healthcare assistants

Any of the above may help in clarifying the specific area or process of focus

Stakeholder Analysis

Stakeholder Analysis is a tool that helps you engage with all those key people who have a positive or negative invested interest in your project.

It will all help you deliver your project, and could for example, consist of clinicians, administrative staff, patients and user groups.

Stakeholder analysis helps you to identify everyone who needs to be involved and assess how much time and resource needed to maintain their involvement and commitment.

I will discuss the NHS tools and techniques of Stakeholder Analysis in a future article, but for now, it must be clear that the first step would be to brainstorm a list of all the people and groups likely to be affected by the proposed change.

Gathering Data

From this, you will learn more about the type and level of benefits to be realized while identifying any important considerations, constraints, exclusions, and assumptions

After stakeholder analysis, many of the above individuals may form part of the project management team or the specialist team designing or improving the relevant process or area.

Consider the following ideas to gather data:

  • talking to patients
  • using information from compliments, complaints
  • concerns and experience questionnaires, friends and family
  • from staff in team meetings
  • staff experience questionnaires on how this particular service may be improved

Such qualitative information can help you establish which higher impact ideas to take forward, those which the team can influence and whether these could be improved or extended to have a larger impact.

Using an Affinity Diagram

Again, I will feature this in a future article.

An affinity diagram helps you review and analyse ideas generated during brainstorming sessions, as they involve grouping and analysing ideas based on similarity or theme. These diagrams encourage those involved to think inventively and make non-traditional connections of ideas.

The process promotes greater ownership of results, allowing breakthroughs to emerge naturally.

Techniques like affinity diagrams and brainstorming can help you to clarify an issue and think up new ideas so you can move onto the next steps. Participants may be surprised that the sorting is done without speaking – this is done to prevent anyone dominating and allows creative thinking to flourish.

They help you get support for your improvement project, and align these with the overall organisational aims and priorities, making sure these aims have measurable targets to determine whether they have been achieved. 

There are other tools which I will address in future NHS articles, such as:

  • The Project Charter (Project Brief)
  • The Project Initiation Document
  • Gateway criteria
  • Active listening

At this stage you may only be able to complete elements of the project charter, such as overall aims.

You may want to outline other sections, but these will need to be refined later as you understand more about what the project and delivery detail.

The final step here is to get agreement from the project sponsor that the project can move to the next stage.

The Way Ahead For Your NHS Management Career

Do Check out our NHS training courses at Projex Academy

Want a PRINCE2 Foundation and Practitioner Masterclass? - go here to find out more

Check out our APM project management training courses APM PMF or APM PMQ

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 - click below for instant access …

NHS PRINCE2 Flashlight Focus

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!

Well done if you got this far!

Here at Projex Academy we have a rich set of professional project management-related training video courses. 

Check us out at Projex Academy ... 

£20,000 of classroom training value for FREE!

PRINCE2 Foundation and Practitioner NHS Masterclass

Here is our PRINCE2 Foundation and Practitioner NHS Masterclass 

prince2 masterclass 2020

My 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