A recent career change from NHS Junior Doctor to management consultant has given me a unique perspective on the challenges facing the NHS, and I have become increasingly aware of the value that management skills would provide to frontline medics.
The NHS is a stretched system; ongoing attempts to cut costs and drive efficiencies, whilst facing the increasing demands of a growing and ageing population.
Within this context, I believe equipping our junior doctors with management skills would provide a significant benefit. A recent survey conducted by the Faculty of Medical Leadership & Management revealed that ‘the majority of junior doctors did not feel that they were receiving enough training to implement the system changes and improvements currently needed in hospital and GP surgeries’. The survey’s findings resonated with my time as a junior doctor, and the subsequent recommendations have also chimed with my own experiences since changing careers; chiefly that leadership and management need to belong to a doctor’s core skillset. Fundamentally, junior doctors need to be better informed and supported to engage with leadership opportunities within the NHS.
In the current medical education system there is very little, if any, formalised medical leadership and management training to prepare physicians for many of the unique and varied demands of a management position. In contrast, I have been afforded the opportunity to learn new skills, working on consulting projects with NHS clients. Through these initiatives I have gained valuable insight into management structures and decision-making processes at higher levels of the healthcare service, something I would never have had access to as a junior doctor.
To be able to add value beyond frontline commitments, there is broad recognition that leadership and management skills and competences are essential for the clinicians of tomorrow. The value and necessity of these skills is particularly apparent for GPs and hospital clinicians as they progress to more senior roles.
As the NHS strives to deliver tangible and sustained change for patients, efforts should be made to make frontline clinicians more aware of the system they are operating in. A more collaborative approach between management and frontline services has the potential to improve clinicians’ management and leadership skills from an early stage. If frontline staff and management are more connected and aligned, the potential to accelerate efficiencies and quality improvements across the board could be significant.
In general, doctors acquire more management responsibility as they progress through their medical career. Some proactively choose to take on more responsibility as part of their personal career trajectory, but often it is the case that doctors have little choice in assuming management roles. Therefore, leadership and management skills for medics are not just a ‘nice to have’ but a vital part of effectively providing high quality care for patients within the complexities of the NHS.
Given the challenges faced by the NHS, it is unsurprising that there is a widespread demand for external management consultancy. This begs the question: is there an opportunity for consultants to provide an increased focus on sharing knowledge and expertise with their NHS clients?
Leadership and management skills are the main benefit I have derived from my career change to consulting. At Moorhouse, we offer all our clients access to the Moorhouse Academy. Originally designed for our own consultants as an integral component of their development, our Academy provides formalised structured learning sessions and closer client team integrations during an engagement. These offer opportunities to share leadership and management skills – as well as core consulting skills; delivering additional value beyond the agreed scope of work.
Importantly, emphasis should be placed on engaging clinicians of all grades when sharing this expertise. This will help to enable more sustainable change by embedding leadership and management capabilities in the client workforce.