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Matt Hancock calls for more clinicians to move into NHS leadership roles

The Health and Social Care Secretary has called for improved recruitment of clinicians into senior hospital management roles.

Launching the FMLM’s review of the barriers facing clinicians moving into leadership positions, Matt Hancock said the NHS needed a management culture change.

Blame culture is putting off people from taking on leadership roles. Hancock said good leadership was about creating a culture where staff can challenge without fear of reprisal.

He said: “We need more talented people, who possess the qualities of great leaders, rising to the top.

“More from clinical backgrounds and more from outside the NHS.”

The review says clinicians are being dissuaded from getting involved because of the insecurity and challenges of operational leadership; this compares unfavourably to the tenure and recognition that comes with clinical roles.

Hancock said: “But what struck me most in the findings, what is perhaps the biggest obstacle is the perception that being a leader, and being a clinician are incompatible.

“The view that if you step out of clinical practice, there is no return. It’s nonsense.”

He promised to tackle the “them and us” culture between some clinicians and managers.

Mr Peter Lees, FMLM chief executive and medical director, said: “This is a challenging time for management in the NHS with patients and healthcare staff needing the highest quality of leadership.

“However, financial, workforce and capacity pressures made worse by a blame culture are affecting the ability to attract and retain leaders from medical and clinical backgrounds; yet research evidence shows a positive association between clinical leadership and better quality.

“We need to see a comprehensive approach to support current and future medical and healthcare leaders.”

Hancock added that the NHS needed “more porous borders” with more support for people bringing in expertise from the outside.

Clinicians are also being dissuaded from getting involved because of a lack of career pathways, and a lack of exposure to management and leadership responsibilities as younger professionals.

FMLM has launched an indicative undergraduate curriculum, endorsed by the GMC and others, for the early introduction of leadership and management training in the medical career, and has started to work with doctors to develop an effective medical career mapping tool.

Hancock also wants a more diverse leadership group in the NHS.

He said: “If we look at racial equality, our leadership within the NHS looks spectacularly un-diverse, uniform in fact.

“40% of hospital doctors and 20% of nurses in the NHS are from a black or ethnic minority background. Yet, BME representation on NHS trust boards is only 7%.

“Over 75% of the NHS workforce are women, yet at board level that figure is just 40%.”

His speech and FMLM’s report follow Sir Ron Kerr’s review into NHS leadership, published last month, which calls for a more strategic and coordinated approach to leadership development in the NHS.

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