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Northumbria helps set standard for future NHS leadership

Friday, 22 January, 2016
Northumbria helps set standard for future NHS leadership

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has been confirmed as one of only three NHS organisations across England to help spearhead the development of positive cultures and leadership capability across the NHS. 

Working with NHS Improvement and the King’s Fund, Northumbria Healthcare will help develop a programme designed to support other NHS organisations nationwide to create and embed cultures which allow safe, high quality and compassionate patient care to flourish.

Alongside hospitals in Manchester and London*, over the next two years Northumbria Healthcare will help ‘road test’ a new best practice toolkit which will help the trust better understand its own current leadership qualities and challenges, how staff feel about culture and the impact on patient care and, importantly, what further improvements can be made.  The results of this work will ultimately become a practical step-by-step guide for other NHS organisations looking to embrace best practice in leadership and organisational development.

For over ten years, Northumbria Healthcare has recognised the vital importance of embedding a good leadership culture and has successfully created an environment which empowers every single member of its staff, no matter what their role, to take responsibility and accountability for the delivery of safe, high quality care for patients. 

Through collective leadership, where doctors, nurses and managers work together as part of routine business, Northumbria’s patient-focussed approach to improving quality has seen the trust successfully transform emergency care with the opening of the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital and introduction of seven-day consultant-led specialist emergency care. 

Ten years in the making, the new model of care at Northumbria Healthcare means thousands of patients are now being assessed, diagnosed and treated much quicker than ever before following emergency admission to hospital and is the result of the positive leadership culture which the trust has embedded.

Dr Jeremy Rushmer, medical director at the new Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital, said: “We have worked very hard over many years at Northumbria to create an open culture where everyone feels empowered to share their views and input ideas on how we can continually improve services for patients.

“If you listened to what staff say in a departmental meeting, you wouldn’t be able to tell who is a clinician and who is a manager – there’s a mutual respect and the conversation is always focused, quite simply, on what’s best for patients.  This allows us to openly discuss any quality issues or challenges and how we can collectively solve them.

“It sounds very straightforward but creating this sort of forum is not easy and it takes a long time.  It’s a particular challenge for NHS organisations which are trying to fix immediate operational problems on a daily basis without any breathing space to really think about or invest in leadership and culture change.  It’s something we are very passionate about at Northumbria Healthcare and are delighted to take part in this work so that we can continue to excel in this area.”

As part of its focus on culture and leadership, Northumbria Healthcare continually invests in developing senior leaders within the organisation and every year runs development courses with all types of staff – consultants, doctors, nurses and managers – all taking part in the same programmes together.

Ann Stringer, executive director of human resources and organisational development at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Developing leadership capability and creating positive cultures in which staff can thrive is a real priority across the NHS as we know this can have a direct impact on quality – there is a very clear and proven link between engaged staff and positive patient outcomes. 

“For several years we have focussed on creating an open and supportive culture where our teams feel their role makes a real difference to patients and are empowered to make changes.  By embedding our core values, each and every member of staff is encouraged to continually strive to make improvements to patient care and the board are fully committed to supporting them in any way we can. We also place great emphasis on making sure we develop our leaders of the future.

“We know, however, that there is always more we can learn and taking part in this national pilot will not only help us focus on our own areas for improvement, but also help NHS organisations across the country as they strive to improve quality of care – this starts by having the right culture in place.”

Ed Smith, Chairman-designate of NHS Improvement, said:  “Our NHS is striving to improve in testing times. It is rising to meet the challenge of unprecedented financial pressures, and trying to provide better, more joined-up care for patients in an ageing population. I’m a firm believer that great leadership is the key to transforming the NHS and dealing with these challenges. We need to identify and develop leaders who have the skill and determination to lead the NHS through these much-needed improvements.

“This programme will offer the NHS a complete package to transform culture and leadership. By road-testing the advice for every step of the process, I am confident that this programme will help trusts to identify what they want to improve and give them the tools to do so successfully.”

Northumbria Healthcare is one of the most successful and highest performing NHS organisations in England with high levels of patient and staff satisfaction and a leadership team which is widely regarded amongst the best in the NHS.  In 2015, the trust was awarded ‘Best Place to Work’ and ‘Board Leadership of the Year’ at the prestigious Health Service Journal awards and is also named in the Stonewall Top 100 Employers for 2016.

Described by NHS England as one of the ‘best-run’ hospitals in Britain, the trust is also one of only three organisations nationally pioneering work to develop ‘multihospital chains’ as part of the NHS Five Year Forward View and new models of care programme. By creating a ‘foundation group’, Northumbria will widen the support and services it already provides to other organisations across the country, sharing clinical knowledge and expertise and helping to spread innovation and best practice, including leadership and culture development.


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