Compassionate and inclusive leadership

By putting diverse leadership at the heart of their ICS workforce strategy, West Yorkshire and Harrogate Partnership aims to ensure that the poor experiences in the workplace that are particularly high for Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff will become a thing of the past.

Inclusive cultures depend on inclusive leaders. Powerful leadership can be found at all levels, across all roles, and in all teams in the NHS. In the first phase of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the power and significance of clinical leadership came to the forefront. We have also heard that people felt they were given licence to exercise their leadership, irrespective of title and grade.

The NHS must build on this distributed leadership that has emerged in recent months. All leaders in the NHS, particularly those who hold formal management and leadership positions, are expected to act with kindness, prioritise collaboration, and foster creativity in the people they work with.

The most important thing has been giving power to front line teams… In the past, many barriers were in place to making changes, with centralised decision making that stifled innovation. In COVID-19 early stages, national oversight stepped back in response to the emergency, and clinical teams were able to self-govern, innovate and collaborate to implement changes that met the immediate needs of their patients. My main urge would be to remember that NHS staff have moved mountains to reply to covid. Leaders please trust front line staff to do what is needed and empower them to deliver the best for their own patients.”

Hospital doctor, Midlands

With the right leadership, NHS teams can flourish. That is why we need to prioritise support to line managers and leaders to develop their skills.  This new approach to NHS leadership will be codified in a leadership compact that will be published shortly.

The following action will be taken in 2020/21 to support leaders to continue building more compassionate and inclusive cultures in their teams:

Leadership development: From September 2020, NHS England and NHS Improvement will provide refreshed support for leaders in response to the current operating environment. This will include expert-led seminars on health inequalities and racial injustice, and action learning sets for senior leaders across health and social care.

Clinical leadership: by March 2021 NHS England and NHS Improvement will work with the Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management to expand the number of placements available for talented clinical leaders each year. These roles will be based in systems, and will focus on improvement projects across clinical pathways.

Talent management: By December 2020, NHS England and NHS Improvement will update the talent management process to make sure there is greater prioritisation and consistency of diversity in talent being considered for director, executive senior manager, chair and board roles. This will include clearer guidance on the recruitment process, and metrics to track progress.

Digital line management training: By January 2021, NHS England and NHS Improvement will launch an updated and expanded free online training material for all NHS line managers. For those who seek to progress, a management apprenticeship pathway will be launched.

Online leadership resources: All central NHS leadership programmes will be available in digital form, and accessible to all, by April 2021. The curriculum will be updated to be underpinned by the principle of inclusion. It will include practical resources on team effectiveness, crisis management, retention and talent management.

Accountability: In October 2020 NHS England and Improvement will publish a consultation on a set of competency frameworks for board positions in NHS providers and commissioning organisations. Once finalised, the frameworks will underpin recruitment, appraisal and development processes for these crucial leadership roles.

Response to Kark review: Ensuring high standards of leadership in the NHS is crucial – well-led organisations and better-led teams with strong teamwork, translates into greater staff wellbeing and clinical care. NHS England and NHS Improvement have completed the engagement exercise commissioned by government in response to Tom Kark QC’s review of the Fit and Proper Persons Test, and are working with the Department of Health and Social Care to finalise a response to the review’s recommendations, which will be published shortly.

Developing our evidence base: By March 2021 NHS England and NHS Improvement will have launched a new NHS leadership observatory which will highlight areas of best practice globally, commission research, and translate learning into practical advice and support for NHS leaders. The observatory will build on the results of the forthcoming national leadership development survey.