Booster jab! How better management invigorates healthcare

Words Nigel Cassidy

The world’s best-performing healthcare organisations are led by trained medical leaders. A new UK programme aims to make this the norm, not the exception

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Professor Sir Bruce Keogh: doctors have a “moral and professional duty” to understand the system in which they practice. Photo: Birmingham Health Partners

The much-respected surgeon and former NHS medical director Professor Sir Bruce Keogh began his career believing that “management” was someone else’s responsibility. He later changed his mind, realising that: “If I really cared about how well patients were treated then I had a moral and professional responsibility to understand the system in which I practised.”

A decade on from Sir Bruce’s wise words, surprisingly few doctors are appointed to senior leadership positions. This is despite mounting evidence that well-trained managers are the key to high performance (see table) – and that the best-performing healthcare organisations worldwide are run by people who combine clinical understanding with well-honed leadership and management skills.

Trained managers outperform on all key leadership metrics

Chart depicting the findings from CMI's Better Managed Britain report that trained managers outperform on key leadership metrics

Source: CMI Better Managed Britain report, 2023, p16

But attitudes are moving on. More and more organisations realise that what’s lacking in modern health services is not just sufficient funding but well-trained clinical leadership. 

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