Twenty-one NHS leaders are the first to graduate from a course that prepares clinicians for influential roles on hospital boards.

The AHSC Leadership and Development programme is a unique course that equips senior clinicians and NHS managers with the leadership skills needed to operate effectively at board level and to address key management challenges facing the healthcare system over the next five to ten years across Imperial College Academic Health Science Centre (AHSC).

The programme was developed by the AHSC partners in collaboration with Imperial College Business School’s Executive Education programme.

The programme supports the government’s wider plan to recruit more clinicians into management roles so they can use their expertise and clinical insights to deliver better patient care.  Currently, only 54 per cent of managers in NHS hospitals are clinicians – compared to 74 per cent in Canada and 94 per cent in Sweden.

Professor Jonathan Weber, Director of Imperial College AHSC, said:  “I would like to congratulate the first cohort of clinicians on graduating from our programme.  The AHSC Leadership and Development Programme is a bespoke course aimed at giving our talented clinical staff across the AHSC the skills and knowledge required to advance in their management careers.  This programme has been co-developed by bringing together the directors of human resources at our NHS partners with the management expertise at the Business School to provide a tailored learning experience to develop and retain the best clinical leaders.”

Mary Gaughan, Programme Director of Custom Executive Education at Imperial College Business School, added:

“It has been a fantastic experience working with the first group of NHS leaders on this programme. They were enthusiastic, engaged and very positive about applying the lessons learned from the course to drive further improvements at their hospitals.  We look forward to growing this programme and training future clinical NHS leaders.”

Staff from Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, the Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust were selected to take part in the one-year programme which consisted of six modules delivered by academics at the Business School. Participants learnt  how to be influential on boards, how to lead teams effectively and how to foster a high performing innovative culture.

The group worked collaboratively on a strategic project and received one-to-one coaching to ensure their learning could be translated back into their hospital roles.  It also provided an opportunity for participants to attend board meetings, shadow senior board members and receive three sessions of one on one coaching.

The programme concluded with a graduation ceremony at Imperial’s South Kensington Campus.

Following the successful pilot, the programme will continue and the next cohort of NHS staff will start the programme in September.

Providing development opportunities for clinical staff by virtue of the academic excellence available at Imperial is a key part of the mission of Imperial College AHSC, a joint initiative between Imperial College London, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust and the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust. It aims to transform human health by turning scientific into advances to reduce the impact of ill health locally, nationally and globally in as fast a timeframe as possible.

Making a difference

Maxine Myers caught up with four graduates to find out more about their experience of the programme.

Dr Ramanathan Kasivisvanathan, Consultant Anaesthetist and Head of Anaesthesia and Perioperative Medicine at the Royal Marsden Hospital, said:

“What I liked about the AHSC Leadership and Development programme is the emphasis on how to manage within the NHS and the challenges that brings. Most leadership programmes don’t offer this perspective.

“As part of the programme, I worked with colleagues on a project that looked into the wellbeing of junior doctors across three NHS Trusts and how to improve it.  This is a major problem in the NHS -a report by the Royal College of Physicians found that 80 per cent of junior doctors experience excessive stress and burnout.  This can have serious implications on the delivery of patient care and safety.

“We conducted surveys and focus groups with junior doctors about the aspects of their jobs they found stressful and how this can be addressed.

“We presented our project to senior leaders at the College and our trusts and received positive feedback.  I am now working on implementing measures in my department that are in line with national recommendations to improve work conditions. This includes reducing burnout by ensuring that doctors’ wellbeing is recognised as a key marker of our health system’s performance alongside other established aims such as patient experience.

“Being on the programme helped me to develop a clear vision for my department and long-term I hope to be on a hospital board.  Doctors don’t get many opportunities to develop as managers and this programme has been a great foundation to my management career.”

Maureen Carruthers, Divisional Nurse Director, The Royal Marsden Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“The collaborative nature of the programme was a highlight for me.

“Professionally, my background in palliative care nursing had provided me with insight into the immense value of collaborative working both practically and educationally.

“The speakers and modules were excellent, particularly Professor Nelson Phillips from the Business School who delivered interesting sessions with such a natural and engaging style, allowing the sessions to be interrupted by students but always managing to keep the subject on track. The opportunity to have some coaching from an external coach was also of value, as was the networking. This was not just with other Trusts; I found I networked with colleagues in my own trust who I would not necessarily have known.

“The course has given me more confidence and insight into ways of developing as a leader.  I also have a greater awareness relating to the need to network and lobby others in order to secure influence and support when needing to get things changed.   It has also shown that staff can work together from different organisations.”

Dr Joanna Szram, Consultant in Occupational Lung Disease and Director of Medical Education at the Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“I currently sit on the AHSC expanded education committee and I wanted to develop my skills in influencing decisions and really add value to cross-organisational working.  I am also keen on progressing within my leadership roles and I felt that the AHSC Leadership and Development programme would enable me to do this.

“The lectures delivered by the Business School’s academics were informative and thought provoking. It was great to hear from people who were at the cutting edge of contemporary business thinking and to consider how to apply their perspectives to my NHS roles.  Another beneficial aspect of the programme was the one to one coaching sessions, which really helped me focus on how I can make improvements to my own approach to leadership.

“Taking part in the programme has made me more aware of the broader landscape surrounding NHS leadership.  I now feel more empowered, confident and have a greater understanding of what is required of leaders in healthcare.  I recognise the power of networking, which provides valuable opportunities to learn from the ways that other organisations work.

“I enjoyed the programme immensely and would recommend it to others as a fantastic developmental opportunity.”

Shona Maxwell, Head of Operations, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust

“The first thing that really struck me about the programme was that the standard of teaching was head and shoulders above any course I have been on.  Senior professors and leaders from the Business School and the NHS taught us. They were able to give a business as well as an NHS perspective on a range of problems.  It really opened my eyes as to how I go about my day-to day job.

“Our group project looked at the large number of junior doctors’ vacancies across all AHSC hospitals.  We conducted surveys and focus groups with junior doctors on ways in which we can improve recruitment and retention.  Some of our recommendations included educational supervision, study leave, and funding for courses.

“A highlight of being on the programme was working with such a diverse group of people.  My background is in nursing and as you develop in leadership roles you don’t often get the opportunity to work alongside your clinical peers.  This was something I enjoyed as we able to network, share different perspectives on delivering care, find issues in common and come up with solutions.  This further emphasised to me that we need to be working more collaboratively across the NHS.

“I would recommend this programme to others and I have two members of my team who will start in September.  For those who are taking part in the programme my one bit of advice would be to really think about your strategic project.  Try not to do something overly ambitious that can’t be implemented in the timeframe you have.”