Messenger Review highlights NHS's need for better management training and clear career pathways, says BMA

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA.

Location: UK
Published: Wednesday 8 June 2022
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Responding to today’s publication of the Messenger Review, Ricky Bhabutta, joint chair of the BMA’s medical managers committee, said:

“We welcome today’s review into leadership in health and social care and are pleased to see that it addresses many of the crucial problems we highlighted in our submissions to it: the need for career-long management training, clear routes to progression, mentorship, and diversity in leadership.

“Managers in the NHS provide often inspirational leadership under almost impossible conditions – what this review shows is that the institutions around them need to live up to their example. An ‘institutional inadequacy’ in the way management is trained, developed and valued, as reported here, is simply not good enough when such amazing work is being done on the front line. There is a vast untapped well of potential and talent in the NHS that can be unleashed if we can just get the structures right. We echo the report’s acknowledgement of the need to give medical managers the tools they need to do their jobs.

“It is good to see the government accepting the seven recommendations in the report but the proof will be in delivery. A single set of unified, core leadership and management standards for NHS managers delivered through accredited training is a welcome but ambitious goal and we will be following progress closely on how it is implemented. Similarly, we support the ambition to empower our leaders so that ‘roles in challenged areas are seen as the best jobs rather than the most feared jobs’ – acknowledging the difficulty of these jobs would be an excellent first step from government.

“It is also good to see the government accepting the need for diversity in leadership. “Embedding inclusive leadership practice as the responsibility of all leaders” is certainly important, but the government must also appreciate that issues around terms and condition, as well as a lack of job security, can discourage certain groups from taking the risk of management roles, leading to homogenous leadership teams. We hope that any reforms will keep this in mind.

“We share the review’s commitment to tackle bad behaviour, end the blame culture and improve working relationships. The need to tackle discrimination and ill treatment, and instead respect the potential for leadership and creativity at all grades, is key: our recent interim racism report found 60% Asian and 57% Black doctors citing racism as a barrier to their career progression. That represents an appalling loss of potential leadership talent as well as a failing of the current institutional setup.

“Medical managers and their teams shouldn’t have to endure an ‘us and them’ mentality: the benefits of a good leadership structure are incalculable for the whole NHS, and as representatives of both medical managers and doctors we embrace the collaborative spirit this review was written in. We will be watching the progress of the Government’s response to these recommendations closely - by giving doctors the right tools we can ensure the conditions where the best candidates – not only the most confident ones – can thrive.”


Notes to editors

The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.