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What makes a good healthcare leader

29 January 2016

This month we brought together senior executives from regional Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) during what is a challenging and transformational period for the NHS.

Public healthcare is suffering from a vacuum of talent following the retirement of a number of high level clinical retirements in the last five years. The theme of the evening focused on what it means to be a good clinical leader in 2016 and beyond and, in particular, what are the key elements to success?

Long term vision

For many in the group, the ability of a leader to remain resolutely focused on what the next generation of patients should experience, and not just the demands of the present, was a favoured characteristic. It was argued that short termism is simply not an option and that plans to improve future pathways should be made up to 20 years in advance.

In tandem, there was a strong consensus that CCGs must also maintain focus on the challenges of the present, notably in responding to reform. For example, there has been a recent shift in how NHS England intends to identify health communities from across the country in becoming vanguard sites. With the 50 vanguard sites now announced, many clinical leaders are working to decide which of the NHS’ new care models are best for local health and care services as part of the NHS Five Year Forward View.

That said, there was some admission that clinical leaders can’t control everything and there must be an element of flexibility in the system to enable CCGs to develop at their own pace and forge their own path through transformation.

It’s not just about the purse strings

Buying services on behalf of the population from a range of providers - including hospitals, clinics and community health bodies - is huge part of the job, but it doesn’t define the role of a clinical leader in its entirety.

There was agreement that there must be a focus on securing the best possible health outcomes for the patients by assessing local needs to decide priorities and strategies. The key to success is in listening to patients throughout the development of a CCG’s strategy. Often, this means spending a lot of time out of the office to truly understand the needs of a community. Ultimately, the CCG must be a system leader, crafting the service vision for the local area and this process is far from just about spending money.

Clear direction

Fighting complacency and resistance to change will no doubt be a common challenge that many CCG leaders will face in 2016. The group discussed the dangers of middle-management teams not having the capacity or capabilities to deliver a strategy that has been agreed at a senior level.

As such, outlining objectives and achievable goals at the onset of any project or initiative would be fundamental to success. Given the various stakeholders within a CCG, there must be a clear vision for all parties to work towards that will ensure consistency and commitment to delivering any changes.

While there may have been some disagreement in how this might be achieved, there was an acknowledgement to how different the circumstances are for each CCG, with some having seen their budgets slashed, while others have received investment. But, that discrepancy across the market and the unique hurdles faced by each organisation was identified as a motivator for many of those that attended the dinner. It was clear that the difficulties presented by the sector might put off some, but to interim managers they present a professional challenge that is hard to resist.

For more information, please contact Nick Behan.

Categories: Healthcare


Roger Eastwood at 29/01/2016 19:18 said:

The biggest challenge for most CCGs is joining up care for older people as this consumes in excess of 60% of spending and with people living longer is a challenge that is simply not going to go away.