Better Healthcare Begins with Better Leaders
A success story featuring NHS Health Education England
The NHS is among the world’s top five largest employers, with around 1.4 million employees. As an arm’s length body of the NHS, Health Education England (HEE) is a dedicated function that concentrates exclusively on implementing and promoting national workforce strategy, training programmes and leadership development to healthcare professionals within England’s healthcare service.
DEVELOPING TOMORROW’S HEALTHCARE LEADERS TODAY
For this reason, over the past 5 years the NHS Leadership Academy has been focused on developing competent and skilled leaders among the system’s nearly 41,000 General Practitioners who provide over 1.3 million consultations to patients each and every day.
“One of the current policies taking shape within the NHS is for Primary Care clinicians to become more involved in leading healthcare. This means that we need to increase the confidence of our Primary Care Leaders,” explains Sue Harris, Director of Leadership and Organisational Development at Health Education England. “And that’s our job. We’re here to enable our medical and clinical staff to step up and become increasingly prepared to lead.”
As the West Midlands Local Leadership Academy (WM LLA) began working to expand and deepen the Academy’s emphasis on leadership development for their Primary Care leaders, they quickly recognised the need for a different kind of framework; one that would deliver a consistent approach and a common language of leadership across NHS’ very large and extremely diverse system. With the NHS primarily funded as a public sector organisation, efficiency, sustainability, and the ease of ongoing implementation with internal Academy staff were key priorities in the development of primary care leadership interventions.
Throughout England today there are hundreds of medical practices of varying sizes—from solo practitioners to part-timers, small practices with as few as three employees to much larger groups employing 10–20 staff. It was clear that no one-size-fits-all version of a leadership development programme would work. The Academy needed a model that practitioners could grasp quickly and begin implementing immediately back on the job.
“In response to these challenges, we needed to develop a keep-it-simple model to bring different perspectives of leaders in primary care together, to develop them as leaders of change, and give them the confidence to transform their organisations and step up into leadership,” remarked Harris.
SIMPLE - NOT SIMPLISTIC
The team called this programme Triumvirate, to represent bringing three diverse leadership perspectives together. Everything DiSC was integrated into the course as a key enabling component. As Harris explains, “It also works well alongside the other development opportunities we integrate into the Triumvirate programme to help people understand themselves and inclusively connect to others.” In its first stage, the Triumvirate programme brought together 21 participants in seven independent General Practices across the West Midlands, including each group’s General Practitioner, nurse, and business manager.
DEVELOPING LEADERS AT EVERY LEVEL TO BECOME AGENTS FOR CHANGE
The Academy knew that to impact change they would need to impact behaviours and keep them alive in the organisation long after the training was over. HEE Academy staff reached out with monthly activities and learning opportunities ending with a “Graduate, Celebrate, and Sustain” initiative that celebrated everyone’s success and worked to reinforce a sense of comradery and community that would carry the learning forward to others, as well as sustaining their change projects.
EXPANDING THE POWER OF DiSC
To date, nearly 200 developing leaders have completed an Everything DiSC assessment through a variety of the Academy’s development programmes. “Everything DiSC has become a go-to tool for a number of leadership initiatives,” Austin said. “We love its versatility. We can use it alone or in conjunction with other tools in our toolbox to deliver much greater value, as we strive to always be good stewards of the public’s trust and of public funds.”
The Academy’s Triumvirate programme has since earned praise and accolades from far beyond the halls of the Academy. The Royal College of General Practitioners has recognised the power of this programme to make significant strides forward in reaching the goal of developing tomorrow’s healthcare leaders today. They have also scaled and spread the programme nationally in England and across all of the healthcare system, diversifying the programme outside of its roots in primary care.
“With increasing enthusiasm and support for Triumvirate, we hope to continue to expand this programme and reach out to even more healthcare professionals throughout the UK,” Harris concludes. “With DiSC as a key component for this unique leadership development initiative, we can make even greater strides equipping our leaders with the skills and knowledge, deep insight and understanding, and attitudes and behaviours required to continually improve the services provided to our increasingly diverse communities with enduringly complex needs.”