Chris Lancelot: Now can we have a GMC for managers, please?

Recent events have once again demonstrated both the poor quality of some NHS managers, and the devastating effects of their actions.

The GP Record, by Fran Orford:
The GP Record, by Fran Orford:

The Francis investigation into the debacle at Mid Staffordshire hospital blamed managers who were more concerned with chasing targets than in the welfare of the patients. Yet, even now, no senior manager has been disciplined.

Then came the GP survey of primary care organisations, rating just under half of them as 'poor'. Tales of bullying, lack of leadership and corporate deafness abound.

The NHS cannot go on like this. Its managerial elite is out of control, answerable only to themselves and their political masters. As we all know, many managers are fixated entirely on targets, with no concept of the knock-on implications of their decisions and with little willingness to listen to those with wider clinical experience.

Thankfully this behaviour isn't universal: some managers are excellent. But there is a dark cohort of managers who are anything but effective. They don't listen; they can't lead; they bully and they are incompetent.

The NHS deserves better than this. Doctors and nurses deserve better than this. Above all, patients deserve better than this.

This is why we need a 'GMC for managers'. All NHS managers should be required to obtain an NHS 'licence to manage', without which they are not allowed to work in the NHS. Any manager acting negligently or incompetently would risk losing their licence and thus be disbarred from future NHS employment. Failing managers would no longer be able to move sideways, or even get promoted, as happens at present.

Don't get me wrong: I don't want a witch-hunt. We all make mistakes, and I wouldn't want otherwise competent managers punished for isolated lapses of judgment, unless the outcome was truly catastrophic.

Nevertheless, every NHS manager needs to know that, as with all doctors and nurses, each action and every decision they take may one day have to be explained in open court. Only when all managers constantly face the possibility of being called to account for their actions will the NHS truly be safe.

It is clear that a GMC for managers can't come quickly enough.

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