By Shaun Reade

Big news, readers! It is with great sadness that I announce to you the imminent retirement of our Technical Director, Paul Reade, who intends to step down from his position with ESRconnect at the end of April 2020 for a well-deserved rest.

Paul’s career in the NHS, and latterly with ESRconnect, spans an impressive 50 years during which time the world of computing and software development has changed almost unrecognisably, and Paul often jokes that the colour of his hair seems to have followed suit over the years!

It’s fair to say that Paul has made a massive contribution to the NHS throughout his career, and it wouldn’t be right to let him go without a quick trip down memory lane to look at some of his highlights (including aforementioned hair!).

A Whistle-Stop Tour of 50 Years in the Business

Paul on his wedding day in 1974

Paul’s journey with the NHS started in 1970 when he got a job as a trainee computer programmer for the Regional Hospital Board, working at Gateway House in Manchester City Centre. The computer he was tasked with programming was so big that it took up an entire room which had to be air-conditioned to prevent it from overheating, and it had less processing power than a modern smart phone! Proof indeed of just how much technology has moved on in the years since.

By 1974, an even bigger computer was needed to tackle the job at hand, and unbelievably, the replacement was so enormous that it was too heavy for the floor at Gateway House! So, operations were moved just up the road to the Computer Centre at Prestwich in Greater Manchester where the mammoth machine could be housed on the ground floor, and where Paul went on to serve out the rest of his years with the NHS.

Paul worked on a variety of NHS systems during his time at Prestwich, some medical, others finance-based, and in 1976 he and his team were tasked with designing and building the Standard Payroll System, the precursor to ESR, which was in use for some 30 years.

Paul had moved up the ranks from trainee and was by now in a senior role. He ended up managing SPS by 1988, a position he held for 20 years. He and his team designed and produced new versions throughout the 80s and 90s as well as using the system they had built to provide payroll services to the NHS nationally, paying more than 900,000 NHS employees in England and Wales each month! Mind-boggling stuff I’m sure you’ll agree.

During this time, as well as his demanding job and long commute from the family home in Burnley by bus each day, Paul was also a school governor and a County Councillor on Lancashire County Council, not to mention his husband and dad duties, so there was never a dull moment.

In 2004 ESR was born and Paul knew that big changes lay ahead. After a four-year roll-out, the Standard Payroll System was finally replaced by ESR in 2008, and he was able to take early retirement from the NHS.

Paul took the meaning of the word ‘retirement’ loosely you might say, and instead seemed to focus more on the ‘early’ part. It wasn’t long before some of his colleagues, after being so used to having access to pay data and information from SPS that was now unavailable from ESR, approached him to see if a solution could be found, and the next chapter began… the formation of ESRconnect.

The ESRconnect Years

Paul and I incorporated ESRconnect into a limited company in 2008 and started out by changing some of the new payroll output into a more user-friendly format so that NHS Payroll teams could check their work more easily, spot issues before they hit the payroll and save time, and those are still the hallmarks of what we do today. Paul involved me with the business fairly early on as I was already self-employed, and he was considering selling his work to a Trust for a one-off fee but we decided that there could be some mileage in offering the system to other Trusts. This proved to be true, and we have worked well together ever since as a father-and-son team, building a national client base and making many friends along the way.

Adapting to self-employment like a fish to water, Paul has designed every aspect of the ESRconnect software himself in direct response to the needs of our clients, and over the last 12 years he has produced 6 main versions with many variations of each, version 6.5 being the current incarnation. Paul has also developed an impressive time and attendance system in Excel which caters for all NHS conditions of service and has some fantastic time and money saving features which is also in use up and down the country.

Another successful software installation with Chris Perry, 2018

Paul & Shaun at the 2018 HSJ Partnership Awards after winning ‘Best Workforce Innovation’

Being self-employed has allowed Paul to work his own hours and he often remarks on how much he enjoys being able to take some time to get out for a walk on a nice day instead of being tied to the office, so the fact that he has managed to develop the ESRconnect products so extensively will give you a pretty good indication of the sort of weather we get here. That said, it’s hard not to be impressed by the incredible level of devotion Paul has shown to the development and support of our products, and by his ability to single-handedly produce software tools of such intricacy for large complex organisations.

Paul’s considerable technical skills and unwavering dedication, although always hugely appreciated, were formally and nationally recognised last year at the 2018 HSJ Partnership Awards when the ESRconnect Spreadsheet won the award for ‘Best Workforce Innovation’. Pitted against strong competition, the time and money saving benefits offered by the ESRconnect software were immediately apparent to the judges, and we couldn’t have been happier for Paul on such an amazing and well-deserved endorsement of all his hard work.

What’s next for Paul?

Well, first of all, a big old party in April next year to celebrate Pauls birthday and his retirement!

Once that’s out of the way, Paul is ready to start taking life at a more relaxed pace so there will be some holidays and family time. Paul is married to Kath, his wife of 45 years and amazingly after all those years they still seem to enjoy spending time together!

During her career, Kath worked as a college lecturer before embarking on a series of public appointments. She was the leader of Burnley Borough Council and later served on the North West Regional Development Agency before she too moved into the NHS when she became Chair of Cumbria and Lancashire Strategic Health Authority, and then Chair of NHS East Lancashire before her retirement in 2010.

Paul & his wife, Kath

Paul and Kath are also musicians, both having written their own material and are active at local folk clubs and musical events and are looking forward to having more time to devote to their interests. Paul manages various websites for local musicians and bands so his trusty mouse will still get a few clicks from time to time and they have many friends both locally and further afield with close connections in rural Catalonia, Norway and Cologne in Germany.

Paul and Kath both enjoy getting out into the beautiful Lancashire countryside and they live in the village of Cliviger which is 5 miles from Burnley, close to the border with West Yorkshire. They are active members of the village community and can go for countryside walks from their front door, although they do have to make it past two pubs to get to the hills which, let’s face it, could prove to be a challenge in itself but it’s safe to say that there’s lots for them to look forward to.

What’s next for ESRconnect?

Mark Anderson, Senior Systems Architect, ESRconnect

As you can imagine, with all that experience Paul’s shoes are not the easiest to fill but fill them we have and Paul is spending the next few months handing over to our new Senior Systems Architect, Mark Anderson.

Mark is extremely experienced and competent and has designed many major systems for large public sector organisations including the NHS so he is ideally placed to understand and take on the challenges of what we do. He also has some great ideas for moving forward too so watch this space! You’ll be able to read more about Mark very soon in our next post.

Our main focus over the coming months is to navigate through the changes that lie ahead with the spotlight firmly on meeting the needs of our users. We understand how important and time-critical your work is and the role our products play within that and want to assure you that every effort is being made to provide a seamless transition to a new and exciting chapter.

A word from Paul

“I’m really looking forward to my new chapter, and I would like to say thank you to all our customers, it has been a pleasure working with you all. ESRconnect has absolutely been a team effort and Shaun has been a major player in our success. Without his input I doubt we would ever have got ESRconnect off the ground, let alone getting it into the number of Trusts now using it, and even winning a National award! I’m proud to have to have worked with all our client Trusts, and with Shaun, and I know he will now very ably take forward the company we have built together.” Paul Reade

Thank you, Paul

I am sure you will join me in wishing Paul all the very best for his retirement, and in saying a whole-hearted thank you to him for everything he’s done during his time with ESRconnect and the NHS. I will of course miss working with him immensely and am sure you will too. If you’d like to send Paul a message he’d love to hear from you so you can either leave a comment below, send an email to him at or give him a call on 0161 711 0500 any time.