Redefining Leadership Development at the NHS

by | Sep 8, 2015 | Case Studies

The NHS is meeting the growing demands of leaders with a wide range of initiatives, including real patients in the feedback process. 

The National Health Service is a UK national icon and the world’s fourth largest employer – a single brand, but in reality some 450 semi-autonomous organisations. That is the challenge for the NHS Leadership Academy and its Head of Professional Development, Chris Lake.

Chris sets the scene: “Because it is a feature of every city, town and village in the country, everyone has a view of it and an opinion about it. That is why there is such a huge focus on its leadership. Indeed, every enquiry into the NHS, both its failings and its successes, highlights some aspect of leadership. On top of that, the NHS is under massive pressure to deliver more with less, in ways not previously part of its DNA. There is an increasing drive towards systems leadership and the provision of joined up care, across and beyond the boundaries of NHS organisations.”

The response from the NHS Leadership Academy is a suite of leadership development programmes for each level of leadership responsibility, providing targeted development for all backgrounds and levels. The most junior Edward Jenner programme, aimed at those beginning their leadership journey, is free to all users. With some 21,000 registered participants, is delivered online and in MOOC mode.

Next up is the Mary Seacole programme, a one-year face-to-face, online and virtual blend delivered in partnership with the Hay Group and the Open University leading to a Postgraduate Certificate in Healthcare Leadership. As of today, 2,500 aspirant leaders, managers and clinicians use this programme to bolster their leadership skills.

The Elizabeth Garrett-Anderson programme is for prospective senior leaders. It is a two-year development programme that’s also a Healthcare Leadership Master’s degree. The programme has been designed and is delivered in partnership with the KPMG-led consortium including Manchester Business School, the universities of Birmingham, Harvard, and Erasmus and the patient and service user organisation National Voices. Using a wide range of learning methodologies, there is a strong emphasis on workplace application, practise and reflection. Learning is developed through a mixture of face-to-face, group work and Action Learning methods. Each cohort of 48 participants has a dedicated team of three facilitators. 2,000 NHS staff are currently engaged in the programme.

The one-year Nye Bevan programme specifically readies senior leaders for board level executive director roles. The first 240 leaders’ graduated from Nye Bevan in March this year. Again, designed and delivered in partnership with the KPMG-led consortium and the NHS Leadership Academy, the programme has unique elements designed to ensure its powerful development is landed and integrated across the health and care. In addition to four face-to-face highly experiential residentials and seven challenging learning set meetings, there’s also a state of the art virtual campus. The programme’s methodology is Self-Managed Learning – where these senior participants work out what they are going learn and how they will demonstrate this learning in fulfilment of the learning outcomes to qualify as executive directors. Performance on the programme is peer-assessed by other participants – and it is real: there is an 8% failure rate!

The driving influences for all programme designs are in ensuring the right pedagogy for the right programme. Chris: “We have to have the right medium working in the right way.”

The whole suite of programmes work to a unified core strand of a relentless focus on patient care delivered through staff engagement – and involving regular inclusion of real patients to provide feedback and insight. Chris Lake believes a major element to the success of the programmes lays in the decision to co-create with expert partners, including National Voices. The rigorous procurement process prioritised culture and values as well as capability and cost, considered essential for achieving the quality needed to address NHS challenges.

Several other themes run throughout the programmes:

  • Ensuring that the learning environment matches the real world
  • The right balance of academic and work-based learning in the qualification programmes to maximise application

The NHS Leadership Academy’s future challenges are not just about scale – the challenge has always been achieving quality at scale, whether through immersive videos for emotional development or promoting interaction in face-to-face sessions with sometimes 70 participants requiring creativity in room layout and unconventional facilitation.

Chris Lake emphasises that there are no edges or boundaries to the programmes because they are all so strongly embedded in workplace application and reflection. In all programmes there is a mantra that “anything learned has to be applied.”

In terms of impact measurement that is again all down to the workplace. A programme participant cannot pass the course without delivering measured service improvement – and it has to be written up. For most programmes this is posted globally online (on the publicly available NHSX site) to enable others to learn from it.

There is more to come – in the pipeline is a programme for aspirant chief executives. Beyond that there are different challenges: moving the junior programmes able to be run in-house by individual NHS Trusts as Organisation Development programmes, allowing local customised choice about how to deliver them.

What people are saying about the programmes?

I feel involved, valued and an important part of the process.” (Patient Representative)

It’s a brilliant programme, so well thought out, I’m really fortunate to be on it.
(Nye Bevan participant)

It’s been tailored to the individual learners with an understanding that people learn in different ways – it’s a fresh approach to learning.
(Elizabeth Garrett Anderson participant)

It has challenged me and in turn I am challenging others: especially those people that I work closely with but also, those I can and do influence. Inspiring a shared purpose.”
(Nye Bevan participant)

I’ve taken back [to the workplace] a confidence to be able to fulfil my future role in a senior leadership position in health and social care.
(Elizabeth Garrett Anderson participant)

We care deeply about making a difference to the NHS, and believe better leadership is at the heart of change to deliver patient centred care. We are proud to lead a diverse Consortium and are passionate about delivering programmes that improve leadership and the future of health services for all.
(Louise Scott-Worrall Delivery Director KPMG led consortium)


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