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I recently met with a now-retired chief executive of a local health board; a meeting I’d arranged to discuss what it takes to be a senior manager in the NHS today.
To my surprise this particular manager spoke not of making sweeping cuts and slashing services, but instead of having compassion and building good working relationships.
While there are some excellent non-clinical managers in the NHS, I believe there should be a higher representation of NHS leaders from a clinical background. A background that is traditionally associated with teamwork and unwavering compassion for our patients.
I have always enjoyed taking on leadership roles at medical school and in my part-time job. The skills I’ve picked up during these roles give me a strong foundation to build my future career on.
Unfortunately, not many medical schools cater for an interest in leadership, and many future leaders are left to their own devices to develop their skills. In an ideal world all medical schools would devote some time in the curriculum to developing vital skills in healthcare improvement, team management and task prioritisation.
The University of Dundee medical school has a robust student-selected component system, and through this I have been fortunate enough to develop many skills that others may not. I led a healthcare improvement project in Ninewells Hospital’s acute medical unit, and with that experience, my life as a doctor carrying out improvement works will be much easier.
The BMA’s CMM (Committee of medical managers) raises the profile of medical leadership and management in the health service, debates issues of importance to medical managers and supports medical managers with advice on contracts, pay and disciplinary issues.
The CMM, on which I represent medical students, has the voice and influence to promote greater access for students to skills development courses. With its help, the proportion and diversity of medically trained managers will improve across the NHS in years to come.
In the not-too-distant future, I hope any student in any medical school can make an informed decision about their career from their first year, and with the help of the BMA they can pursue it without hindrance.
My colleagues in medicine always ask me what I want to specialise in. That’s a difficult question when NHS leadership is your dream career destination. Sadly, some of my fellow medical students see me as a traitor; bowing to the faceless management machine. I want to change that perspective, and thankfully many of my peers are listening to my vision.
I see a future NHS with an increased number of clinicians in all levels of management, who make decisions about care implementation and where the budget needs to go. With this strategy I can see progress towards the massive efficiency improvements needed for a sustainable and future-proof NHS.
My vision may be bold and somewhat unrealistic, but if the NHS can reimagine itself as a modern health service, we might just polish off our tarnished pride and renew people’s faith in their NHS. And what would be wrong with that?
Want to find more about the CMM? Click here.
How do you think medical students and doctors can be effectively supported to become medical leaders? Comment below…
Matthew Murtagh, Medical students committee representative to the CMM
Glad you suggested this Matthew. Every time I've grasped an opportuniity for leadership (representing my medical school at the founding of the European Medical Students' Association) or leadership training (my College's Leadership programme) I have increased my self-confidence. I highly recommend becoming involved early. The CMM is an excellent forum to help students and Juniors to develop leadership and debate medical management issues.
An interesting perspective.
Doctors shouldn't fear medical leadership and management; indeed we should grasp it and encourage it if doctors are to really deliver on their commitment to improve the quality of patient care. It is not for everyone, but with the appropriate development and experience, most of us can become a good leader and contribute. Without the development (which is how most end up in these roles), we are far less useful!
All the best to you in your endeavours Matthew!
Thank you Matthew for raising the profile of CMM! Agree with you that medical leadership is hugely important - after all we exercise leadership at every consultation to some extent. In primary care in particular there are now great opportunities for medical leaders to flourish as clinical directors of their primary care networks.
Well done for raising this discussion Mathew. If one looks at success of leadership in other industries e.g. academics, sports (F1/Football),.... 'professional leadership' i.e. Clinical Leadership and management (L&M) in NHS is the answer. As someone who has always been passionate and involved in leadership and management from the student days to date and seeing it work, I always get excited when I see ambassadors of clinical L&M like you.