Medical Leadership in the NHS – How the lack of medical leadership within the NHS impacts UK healthcare.

Nov 12, 2020 | Healthcare, Healthcare Workers

There is a significant shortage of doctors in hospital leadership which leads to numerous problems, partly caused by lack of expertise within the healthcare sector. Good leadership is crucial especially with the rise of Covid-19 patients within hospitals as treatment and usage of NHS resources needs to be managed effectively to decrease mortality rates. We need to explore an effective way to minimise the percentage of non-medical leaders within hospitals in order to improve the overall effectiveness of the NHS.

Dr Foster analysed the correlation between the percentage of clinicians on hospital boards and the quality of service providers. He found that a higher percentage of doctors in charge lead to lower morbidity rates proving that medical leadership is essential to the success of healthcare. Another issue worth mentioning is that healthcare professionals (who turn directors) do not get the same level of support as their colleagues.


A Growing Number of Problems

Currently, the NHS is dominated by non-medical business leadership which results in a number of issues such as inability to retain staff, lack of capacity in the trust, increasing difficulty in meeting the patient targets, longer patient waiting times (especially since Covid-19 patients are given priority) which results in more patient complaints. This is caused by the lack of consultants’ knowledge of how the NHS works or possibly the failure of managers to manage consultants effectively or follow up on the advice they receive.

A specialist physician from the NHS stated that “anyone can become a business consultant” however, in the long run they do not add any value to the organisation. On average, £1.2 million a year is spent on consultants per trust which is a lot of resources being invested into poor leadership with minimal results; for the same amount, the NHS could hire 20 more managers, 10 consultant doctors or 35 senior nurses who could all contribute to improving the organisation and creating positive outcomes. Professor Andrew Sturdy’s research states that management consultants not only fail to improve the overall efficiency of the NHS but in fact, in most cases, they make it worse. Which proves that the money invested in the wrong leaders could be put to better use and spent on medical services or the improvement of internal management expertise.

The main issue lies in the fact that non-medical leaders lack the essential skills and knowledge that doctors, or nurses would have developed over the course of their career within the healthcare sector. This results in poor decision making as they are not fully aware of the structure of the organisations nor the possible consequences that could emerge by making a misinformed decision.


What’s the Solution?

We can resolve the negative effects of non-medial leaders within the NHS by increasing the quality of training provided ensuring all managers and directors have thorough knowledge on the healthcare sector. By providing more opportunities for doctors and nurses to progress their careers into leadership, the NHS invests in the right people who are best equipped for the role. Many medical professionals feel like they are just a cog in the machine and therefore do not strive for managerial positions. This can be seen by the fact that doctors are often viewed as “providers of patient care” rather than “management, business target and business performance”. However, seeing their colleagues and peers become successful leaders would motivate them to work harder and break this stereotype and become leaders and directors themselves which would positively affect the NHS.  


Relevance to Covid-19

The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in a significant increase in hospital admissions which means that now more than ever, the NHS needs to be managed effectively to combat the disease and save lives. Furthermore, good leadership would allocate the NHS resources more effectively decreasing the number of patients permanently affected by the disease as they were seen to quicker with more effective measures. For example, there is an increase in patients leaving Covid-19 hospitals with pneumonia which could have been prevented if doctors and nurses were better led and managed.

By Julia Obrebska