Get to Know Jo Barton, Senior Category Manager for the NHS Workforce Alliance

The ‘Get to Know’ series showcases staff from around the NHS Workforce Alliance to give you a glimpse of the variety of roles in our organisation, and the people who perform them.

This month, we’re pleased to introduce Jo Barton, Senior Category Manager. Find out more about Jo’s background, her role, and her interests.

Q: What  is your role within the NHS Workforce Alliance, and what does it involve?

I am the Senior Category Manager for HR and People at NHS North of England Commercial Procurement Collaborative (NOE CPC). My role involves representing NOE CPC within the alliance and supporting customer interests and representing their views in all areas of the alliance. I am involved in various teams, such as the joint working group (JWG) and framework implementation group and represent the JWG on the Strategy and Continuous Improvement Function. I also lead on the audit programme, ensuring our audit processes provide customers with assurance that framework suppliers comply with all safeguarding and compliance requirements.

Q: Why are you passionate about this?

I see that what we deliver is for the greater good of the NHS. I am passionate about making the best use of public money and using our role to influence and shape the NHS workforce strategy and deliver a safe and robust flexible workforce. I am NHS through and through, and I believe that the NHS Workforce Alliance was the right way to go and the collaboration brings together the best of what each individual organisation can bring. Together we can deliver more, the support we offer is unrivalled and makes a real difference, and this is evidenced by our work on the vaccination rollout and the Nightingale hospitals. I see how the work we do makes a real difference to patient care and I am very proud of that.

Q: What is the greatest challenge you face at work?

Every day is different, and I think this is a positive thing, supporting our customers and seeing the difference we make to patient care gets me out of bed in the mornings. Some challenges around collaborating can be difficult but not insurmountable. Everyone is up for that challenge and believes in why we are doing it, which means as a team we can easily find solutions. We have all adapted to using Microsoft Teams and electronic meetings, but it is no replacement for face-to-face interaction with colleagues and customers. The pandemic has forced us to be more creative in how we engage effectively and that is the bread and butter of what we do.

Q: What was your first job and how has this impacted you in your career?

My first ever job was working evenings at a pool hall behind the bar. It gave me a good grounding for customer service, dealing with complaints and a wide variety of the general public, people from all walks of life. I take people by surprise by how well I can play pool – although I have not played now for years, and I can pull a perfect pint. Those skills (pool and pint pulling!) stay for life, not that they help with the NHS. My first job within the NHS was a part time admin job splitting purchase orders and distributing to suppliers, finance, stores, requisitioners etc. Seeing the huge variety of goods and services being ordered is what initially got me excited about procurement. My first boss, Neil Wright, went off to the sunny side of procurement consultancy, but he really was the benchmark for all other bosses to come.

Q: How would you spend a perfect day off?

I love to go camping and going and sitting in a field around a campfire, with marshmallows and prosecco on the go, is my idea of heaven. I love getting out with family for a walk through the woods too as it helps the stresses of the day melt away.

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