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Open letter on respecting NHS managers

As leaders in health and care we know that NHS managers make an essential contribution to the delivery of high quality services to the people of this country.

Skilled managers work long hours in a wide range of specialist roles to help clinicians and other members of the healthcare team care for patients within the challenging context of a complex system with finite resources which is facing ever growing demand.

Some of these managers have a general management, finance, HR or similar background. An increasing number are also being drawn from medical, nursing, midwifery, allied and other healthcare professions, all of whom bring a welcome particular professional expertise and perspective.

In our experience, NHS managers are as dedicated to the service as any other group of staff. We find it regrettable, therefore, that they are so often the subject of ill judged criticism and made scapegoats when concerns arise. This is both unfair and damaging to the interests of patients since successful joint working between managerial and clinical staff is an essential ingredient of good care.

It is especially worrying that ill informed allegations and the use of lazy stereotypes tend to peak at a time of increased public interest in the NHS – such as the period before a general election. Of course the quality of management varies across the service, but such variation is seen in all professional groups in health and care. There is no justification for singling out managers.

Therefore, we call on politicians of all parties to treat managers with the same respect they would accord to other members of the NHS workforce and to acknowledge the essential job they do for patients and the public.

Signed by:

Dr Mark Porter, chair of council, British Medical Association

Dr Maureen Baker, chair, Royal College of GPs

Sir Simon Wessely, President, Royal College of Psychiatrists

Peter Carter, chief executive, Royal College of Nursing

Sir Nick Partridge, chief executive, Terrence Higgins Trust

Alan Milburn, former secretary of state for health

Stephen Dorrell MP, former secretary of state for health and former chair of the Commons health committee

Cathy Warwick, chief executive, Royal College of Midwives

Karen Middleton, chief executive, Chartered Society of Physiotherapy

Sir Michael Rawlins, former chair of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence

Sir John Oldham, chair, Independent Commission on Whole Person Care

Dr Clare Gerada, immediate past chair of the Royal College of GPs

Paul Farmer, chief executive, Mind

Jeremy Taylor, chief executive, National Voices

Jon Restell, chief executive, Managers in Partnership

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3 Responses to “Open letter on respecting NHS managers”

  1. Jane Ford says:

    “Of course the quality of management varies across the service, but such variation is seen in all professional groups…”

    Apples and pears…most other professionals within the NHS e.g. physiotherapists, nurses etc are regulated heavily and held to an exacting standard, with the onus on the individual to prove year after year they have met a framework of standards and achievements set by their regulatory body- many of the members of which are lay members representing the general public. Failure to comply to the standard results in revocation of their ability to practice, serving to hold all members to one standard and decrease variation between individuals within these professions.

    Managers are not (yet) regulated and do not have a professional body (not helped by the great resistance from the profession to this being set up). Until they are regulated and can be held to account by the public, they will be rightly open to increased scrutiny and criticism – how else can they be held to account? Efforts to right this wrong will be the only way to counter criticism and stereotypes IMO, afterall trust and respect from the public must be earned…

  2. Tom Goodfellow says:

    I would have signed this open letter (if asked)!

    Most non-medical managers have no idea as to the complexity of modern medicine and believe that the same principles needed to manage industry can be applied to the NHS. Well they can’t!

    For example what industry could survive if given a fixed budget and uncontrollable demand? It would go out of business within half an hour.

    Our managers generally do a fantastic job of balancing the pressures and demands. Of course they don’t always get it right -how could they?

    But I have worked with some fantastic managers during my career.

  3. CA says:

    100% agree with Jane Ford. Also 100% not surprised re resistance from managers re regulation, accountability and standards.

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