Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has been confirmed as one of only three organisations nationwide chosen to help spearhead the development of positive cultures and leadership capability in the health service.
Working with NHS Improvement and the King’s Fund, the north east trust will assist in developing a programme designed to enable other NHS organisations to create environments allowing high-quality patient care to flourish.
Alongside hospitals in Manchester and London, over the next two years the trust will help test a new best practice toolkit to measure leadership qualities and challenges, gauge how staff feel and assess what improvements can be made.
Dr Jeremy Rushmer, medical director at Cramlington’s new specialist emergency care hospital, said: “We have worked very hard over many years here 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, and we 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, the trust continually invests in developing senior leaders within the organisation and every year it runs development courses with all types of staff – consultants, doctors, nurses and managers – taking part in the same programmes together.
Ann Stringer, executive director of human resources and organisational development at the trust, added: “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 focused 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.”