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Angela Spindler, CEO of N Brown Group Plc

9 May 2016

The NHS is such a huge and diverse organisation that at times, understandably, it can be somewhat inward-looking. All too often, events designed to address key trends, challenges and potential solutions for health service managers amount to little more than the NHS talking to itself. Valuable outside perspectives are missing.

In a recent discussion, an NHS chief executive told me she was continually hearing the same messages from the same people, and given the growing acceptance within the NHS that a more business-like approach has a direct and positive impact on safety and the delivery of quality care, it occurred to us during our conversation, it would be valuable to organise an event that explored new paradigms of thought. All the more so if the event allowed an NHS audience to hear from a successful business leader from outside the health system.

That was the thinking behind our Annual Northern Healthcare Dinner, held on the evening of Thursday 4 February and attended by senior leaders from the NHS. Our carefully selected guest speaker was Angela Spindler, Chief Executive of N Brown Group plc, the multi-channel fashion retail business which owns home shopping brands JD Williams, Simply Be and Jacamo amongst others. Earlier in her career, Angela was Managing Director of Debenhams and Global Managing Director of ASDA’s clothing brand George. 

Angela talked about the lessons she has learned from 25 years as a successful business leader within fast-paced consumer-facing businesses. She also shared her experience of meeting the demands of an ever-changing customer landscape while driving change and efficiencies.

Covering a large amount of ground, Angela answered questions posed by Odgers Healthcare and our guests. Among the themes she addressed were: keeping your workforce engaged and maintaining strong performance levels during periods of significant cultural or transformational change; approaching the delivery of transformational change and fresh strategic direction as a CEO when many of the Board and Leadership team have been committed to a previous strategy/era of leadership; the most important elements for a CEO to focus on when delivering a change programme; and distilling a vision to employees to take them with you when making significant cultural changes.

Angela also shared her views on recruitment, retention and leadership development; making the NHS a more attractive career choice; obtaining buy-in for a more commercial approach to innovation and becoming less risk averse with regard to innovation; and how NHS organisations can become more customer centric when they are still judged so much by their financial position, A&E performance and ability to deliver year-on-year efficiencies.

Inevitably, there was a lot of interest in the subject of technology given the growing focus on data analytics and the need for investment in systems that improve accuracy and efficiency enabling health economies to better predict the local populations health needs. Angela offered her opinion on what the NHS can learn from other sectors about embracing technology rather than fearing it.

I’m delighted to say, we have received great feedback in relation to the event. Our intention going forward is to run further events in a similar vein as part of our commitment to supporting the NHS in its drive to become more business-like.

As is readily apparent, improving financial performance without compromising services and patient safety is an issue with which the NHS must successfully grapple in the coming months and years.

Sarah Lovell, Partner, Odgers Interim Management


Categories: Healthcare

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