Leading in the NHS is extremely challenging and at the same time hugely rewarding. Day after day you have the opportunity to make a real difference to thousands of people, no matter what role you have.
Given this potential one would have thought that everyone would be striving to do what’s best and head in the same direction. Yet often quite the reverse is true. Some think that there are only tensions between clinical and non clinical staff. The reality is there are tensions within different parts of organisations and across health economies.
Now of course some healthy tension is helpful in any organisation. On the other hand when it starts to become less of a bridge to improvement and much more of a barrier to making progress it becomes counter productive.
The trouble is that when people start to pursue their own agendas there are some unfortunate consequences. In the worst case scenario it ends up having a big impact on patients as certain past incidents have shown.
So what steps can be taken to get everyone heading in the same direction?
Never Forget The Most Important People
Yes there will be disagreements, conflicts and tensions. At the end of the day the most important people that the NHS and those who work in it need to serve are patients and clients. Now don’t get me wrong the people who deliver the services are important to look after too. But first and foremost those in need come first. Without patients and clients there is no need for the NHS.
Get People Involved
Some talk about the importance of engagement. Yet there is often a big gap between what leaders say and what people do. Now no one is saying that you need to consult and debate every little action. On the other hand people want to be involved and have their say on the big changes that are proposed. If you get involvement, listen and remain open minded you are much more likely to achieve the changes you want.
Stop Confusing Funding Mechanisms With Patients
In England there is a principle that the money follows the patient. As a principle this is fine. Some are involved in buying or commissioning care while others work in provision. Ultimately they are serving the same patient. When we lose sight of this it is easy to expend energy on the wrong stuff.
Get Egos Out Of The Way
We all like to be the person who comes up with the great idea or suggestion that makes the difference. On the other hand if egos become more important than progress things just get stuck and everyone gets more and more frustrated.
Encourage People To Understand Each Others Pressures
Everyone is able to relate to the pressures in their part of the organisation or health economy. Yet much fewer really have the wider understanding of the types of pressures and challenges others are under. Allowing people the time to work alongside or shadow others can be eye opening. They start to understand things better and as a result can be much more supportive and balanced.
Stop And Take Stock Regularly
There are things like staff surveys but they are just a snapshot at a point in time. Make this a much more regular activity where there is open dialogue and discussion about what is and what in not working.
The Bottom Line: In times of crisis the NHS does a great job of pulling together. The challenge is to bring those qualities to the fore as a matter of course.
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