NHS failing to identify clinicians with leadership potential, report warns

Clinical training programmes rarely promote leadership roles as a career option and the NHS should do more to identify and develop doctors suited to these posts, a DHSC-commissioned report has warned.

(Photo: iStock.com/fizkes)
(Photo: iStock.com/fizkes)

The report by the Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management looked at how the NHS can increase numbers of clinicians taking up its most senior leadership roles - and warned this will not happen spontaneously.

It recommended that Health Education England (HEE) should work with training bodies, faculties and colleges to establish a national programme for identifying, tracking, supporting and developing leadership and management talent from across the clinical professions.

The report also said the NHS would have to look at the ‘reward and recognition’ of senior leadership roles if it wanted to encourage more doctors into these positions. It said current remuneration packages did ‘not balance in favour of senior leadership as opposed to continued clinical practice’ for doctors.

Professional regulation

Professional regulators like the GMC should set out clearly how senior leaders can maintain their license to practise while undertaking a management role if they wanted, so that they retained the option of returning to clinical practice later in their career, the report said.

The regulators should also ensure that when they issued new guidance or standards they explain how this applied to clinicians in senior leadership roles.

The report authors said they had ‘gained the impression of low awareness among clinical professionals about the skills and attributes required of senior leaders and the steps they should take to equip themselves for these roles’.

It said that training programmes needed to be more flexible and recognise clinicians who show an interest in leadership and management early in their career.

Career options

It also recommended that the NHS Leadership Academy should develop a resource setting out the career options and pathways for clinical professionals considering a move into senior leadership.

'Most [clinicians] highlighted progression to senior leadership was rarely promoted as a legitimate career pathway as part of training programmes and even where programmes exist, such as the National Medical Director's Clinical Fellowship scheme, these are not recognised as part of specialty training,' the report said.

'Most felt the skills and competences for senior leadership, especially chief executive, are not always clear and there is a need to identify and develop leadership talent in a more structured way than is currently the case. In general, there is a lack of data about the backgrounds and qualifications of senior leaders in the NHS.'

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