Partha Kar

Tell me what you have achieved for patients

The NHS is full of leaders, full of people who love giving talks, who love preaching, an love exhorting others to work differently.

What’s wrong with that, I hear you say? Well nothing much, except that I have a certain allergy to hearing those speakers – or preachers – whose own track records are not much to shout about.

I have no problem in listening to the enthusiasm of youth, who have started early and are keen to sweep you away, carry you along with their wave of enthusiasm to improve patient care. Neither do I have any issue in listening to the experienced operators who can point to a shining track record and a slew of patient care achievements behind them.

The problem is that the NHS either spends too much time blocking the flush of youth, or has too few from the second group.

We have plenty of leaders – the very same folks who get recycled, who have been a part and parcel of the system they keep exhorting the rest to change. They keep encouraging others to work differently but when you actually try and look at their achievements, or what they have done, then it all looks a bit…how shall I put it…sparse.

Let’s look at an example – Medical Modernising Careers.

When introduced, it was universally feted as a revolutionary idea which would transform medical training. Now it is widely accepted to have been a disaster which destroyed many a career. The pioneers of that radical idea? Still around, perhaps a few CEA points richer. Still advising about medical education. The circle of life goes on undeterred.

How about our own speciality? Universally, it is now accepted that diabetes care could be better.

If you don’t like data or don’t believe what the National Diabetes Audit says, go on to social media and listen to what patients say. Big ‘national’ voices are now exhorting us to move into the community when I have sat in meetings in years past and listened to them snigger at the ‘poor care’ primary care provides.

I still recall the denigration and snide remarks when we set up our model of care – how it would compromise patients – and today I can wryly smile when CCGs ask us for opinions, and the same power houses laud us for our innovation. Having respect for primary care isn’t innovation, folks, its simple courtesy.

You know why I say this now? Because I am tired of every sphere of healthcare being infested with individuals who specialise in lecturing but have no track record to boost. So, I have now decided that in every meeting I go, if the speaker/exhorter/leader isn’t someone young who is simply trying to infuse you with enthusiasm (always got time for that!) then I will ask “tell me what you have achieved for patients”.

Tell me one thing that the system or patients thank you for.

And I exhort each one of you, whether you are a patient, a doctor, nurse, manager – anyone who is passionate to improve patient care – to do the same.

If the person who is asking you to do things differently has never done so before, or worse left a trail of past failures, you need to ask whether that’s someone to follow, whether your own ideas, innovation and enterprise is better served by following your own heart and belief. Ask them #whatyoudone (why not create a hashtag to support it). Something, anything outcome-based, anything patients liked, felt it improved their care…

In the words of Peter Drucker: “Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes”. The NHS, in these times of uncertainty, needs that sort of leader, not ones who are using the tag as a strapline to justify their existence.

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One Response to “Tell me what you have achieved for patients”

  1. Olly says:

    Well said!

    Good leadership is about results not pontificating on some podium. Far too much of that in the NHS.


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