Health Secretary Matt Hancock has called for inducting more external business leaders as well as clinicians in NHS leadership roles.

He said he wants to improve training and development, learning from the military, business organisations and the education sector, during a speech at the King’s Fund following the publication of Sir Ron Kerr’s review into empowering leaders in the NHS.

Hancock called on NHS leaders to lead by example to create a culture where their staff feel safe to speak out about mistakes, and where everyone understands the benefits of using new technology in healthcare.

“We need to equip staff all across the NHS with the right skills to constantly innovate and continuously realise the benefits that technology such as genomics, AI and digital medicines will provide. That starts with the right skills and capability in management and leadership,” he said.

Hancock also spoke about the need to improve diversity in NHS leadership.

NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the healthcare sector, welcomed Hancock’s suggestion to incorporate more leaders from other industries and the ranks of clinicians.

But, Niall Dickson, its chief executive, pointed out that the crisis at the NHS leadership is that there aren’t enough talented and committed individuals willing to take on these roles.

“We need to acknowledge that and question why,” he said. “At least part of the answer is the culture of the service which is too quick to blame, too slow to support. And some of that comes from the top.”

Dickson noted that a different approach is needed to held NHS leaders accountable “in which the centre issues fewer commands, interferes less, bombards less with requests for information and instead provides encouragement and support beyond the favoured few.”

He said the responsibility to set that tone starts with Health Secretary.

Dickson also held the cuts in continuing professional development and workforce development funding responsible for the issues in training and development of the staff.


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