Leading In The NHS: Interview With Matthew Kershaw

I had the opportunity to interview Matthew Kershaw who recently became CEO of Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust.  Matthew and I worked together in the NHS in the past.   Matthew_small web


I personally found him to be one of the most inspiring individuals that I have ever worked with.


In the interview I ask Matthew to share his thoughts on Leadership in The NHS.


Give Us An Overview Of Your Career and Leadership Experience


I have worked in the NHS for over 20 years mainly in operational roles.  I have done a number of General Manager roles in hospitals and also worked at the Department of Health.


More recently I was Chief Operating Officer at East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust and Chief Executive of Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust.


I have just completed a role as Special Administrator at South London and will be taking on the role of Chief Executive at Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust.


What Is Leadership


Leadership is something that is difficult to define but is clear when you see it.  It is the difference between a good organisation becoming great or taking an organisation that is struggling and improving things.


Leadership is the ability to work with senior teams and the organisation as a whole to set its culture, vision and values and make those a reality in order to improve services for patients.


Leadership is not about doing it yourself.  It’s about creating the conditions that allow others to deliver and support others to make the system work the best it can for patients.


What Makes Leadership In The NHS Challenging


The challenge is you have to strike a balance all of the time.  If it was just about managing numbers (activity and finances) it would be tough.  If it was just about delivering the best quality services for patients it would be a challenging because of the complexity.


In the NHS as a leader you have to deliver on both these areas at the same time.  You are trying to deliver best value for money and best quality of care and services and this is not easy.


Public expectations are rising, demographics are changing, and you are in the spotlight if things go wrong and so it is demanding.


On the other hand these challenges make the job interesting for me.


How Has The Role Of The Leader In The NHS Changed Over The Last 20 Years?


I think there is a slight danger that people will always say it is more difficult.  The basics of running a hospital, leading and connecting with your community are similar to what they always were.


The difference now maybe is that the pace of change and the scale of the challenge are different because of the economic challenges, along with expectations and changing demographics in the population.


What Are The Key Skills That Are Needed To Be An Effective Leader In The NHS


You have got to want to do it.  There needs to be a certain level of enthusiasm as these are not easy jobs.


It is also important to have a level of experience in the service or a similar organisation.  That is not to say you have to have spent your entire career in the NHS.


You have to be able to manage complexity of objectives as highlighted above.


You have to be able to manage competing priorities.


I would also add that the ability to connect with people is fundamental be it staff, patients, relatives, others in the health system or the public.


There is also the need to be able to follow through and make things happen.  Diagnosing the problems is one thing but the real skill is in improving things.


What Are Some Of The Key Qualities Need To Be A Good Leader In The NHS


You have to be pretty resilient and have the confidence and self belief as difficulties and challenges will arise.


You have to be willing to listen to others.


You have to have a set of values that you share with others.


So What In Your View Are The Five Most Important Things To Being A Successful Leader In The NHS


  1. Flexibility


  1. Hard work and a willingness to do your job


  1. Know your purpose


  1. Enthusiasm and energy as these jobs are demanding


  1. Work with people to create teams and engage with people at all levels as it is how you blend people together that delivers results



Matthew Kershaw is Chief Executive Officer at Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust and was interviewed for this article by Duncan Brodie of Goals and Achievements Ltd