Our shared ambition for compassionate, inclusive leadership

Why a shared focus on compassionate, inclusive leadership matters now

Our leaders at every level will play a critical role rising to these challenges and delivering the vision for high-quality, equitable care set out in the NQB’s Shared Commitment. There is a growing evidence base (e.g. West 2021) to demonstrate that in addition to being well led, the most effective care services are driven by compassionate leaders that understand the impact of wider inequalities on health outcomes and actively promote equality, diversity and inclusion.

Compassionate leaders place the quality of care at the heart of what they do, and respect and empower people drawing on and delivering care to achieve this together. They have values and behaviours that inspire understanding and trust, build inclusion and reduce inequalities. They are driven by empathy and a strong commitment to listening and learning, in order to improve the health and wellbeing of all. 

Creating a shared ambition

We believe that it is now timely to build a shared ambition for health and care leaders, leadership standards and our leadership education. Compassionate leadership is embodied in ‘Our Leadership Way’ (previously referred to as the Leadership Compact) which is soon to be published and points to the importance of the heart, head and hands of leadership; leading with compassion, curiosity and through collaboration. We fully endorse ‘Our Leadership Way’ and support the view of the National People Plan Advisory Board on the need to build a thriving and growing pipeline of effective, diverse leaders with the right skills, behaviours and values for today and for our communities.

We will need to work together to achieve this, and to prioritise the following actions:

  1. The NHS Leadership Academy will soon be publishing new NHS Leadership Competency Frameworks for system leaders. We support these frameworks and ask each of our professional bodies, colleges and employers to review their own systems to ensure that our leaders have the skills to lead compassionately today, with curiosity to transform our services for tomorrow.
  2. We commit to supporting compassionate, inclusive leadership and doing what we can to create the conditions for it, including addressing issues that stand in the way such as bureaucracy and misaligned policy. This leadership is crucial to developing and maintaining an open and transparent culture committed to learning and continuous improvement, that is responsive and accountable to the public.
  3. We will go further to open up the recruitment pool for future leaders and will support the recruitment and development of a diverse talent pipeline with the right skills, behaviours and values to be our leaders of today and tomorrow.
  4. We will support those leading ICSs to develop a new kind of system leadership, which inspires collaboration, diversity of thought and experience, and always puts the well-being of people drawing on and delivering services first. ICS implementation guidance on effective clinical and care professional leadership can now be found here. We will lead by example and ensure that our people have the tools to support compassionate behaviours. This will require a continuous approach to lifetime learning and a growth mindset, based on an agile and evolving way of seeing the world.

As system leaders in health and care, we commit ourselves to leading in compassionate and inclusive ways, embedding co-production as intrinsic to our approach, and collaborating for the benefit of our people and the people they serve.

We encourage you to join us to shape the plan to deliver this shared ambition.

The commitment of the NQB to sustaining compassionate and inclusive leadership will powerfully accelerate the urgent work of transforming cultures across our health and care systems, ensuring high quality, continually improving and compassionate care for all.

Professor Michael West CBE.

The last 18 months have highlighted the critical role our registrants have played as leaders in health and care, working in the most difficult circumstances. With significant recovery challenges as a result of the pandemic, the need for united, compassionate and inclusive leadership in delivering high-quality, equitable care has never been more vital.

The National Quality Board’s Shared Ambition for Leadership statement is an important recognition of the need to prioritise and develop effective leadership across the health and care service. The actions set out in the statement echo our own calls to help strengthen consistent leadership, creating the right environment for leaders to succeed and helping to equip tomorrow’s leaders with the skills, behaviours and values they need to thrive.

At the NMC and GMC, we’ll continue to work with our partners to support the ambitions set out in this statement.

Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Executive of the Nursing and Midwifery Council and Charlie Massey, Chief Executive of the General Medical Council.

The National Quality Board (NQB) champions the importance of quality and drives system alignment across health and care on behalf of the national bodies. The organisations represented on the NQB are: NHS England & NHS Improvement, the Care Quality Commission, Health Education England, NHS Digital, the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence, Department of Health and Social Care, the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities and Healthwatch England.

The NQB would like to thank both the General Medical Council and the Nursing and Midwifery Council for their advice, help and support in producing this statement. Both organisations endorse the statement and strongly support the need for compassionate, inclusive health and care leadership for ensuring high quality care.