Representing estates and facilities professionals operating within the  



Matt Hancock’s call for cultural change

Speaking at the Leaders in Healthcare conference last week Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, called for a “leadership culture change” across the NHS.


It is time, he said, to recognise that people will make mistakes but that it is necessary to learn from those mistakes and to be open and honest when talking about errors and complaints.


“If something goes seriously wrong, and you happen to find yourself in my office having to answer for it: don’t tell me everything’s fine because we did it by the book. Do tell me this is what went wrong, and this is what we’re doing to learn from it.


“If you can have the courage to do that, then we’ll create the culture across the NHS we all want to see. Everyone makes errors. Making mistakes is acceptable. But bad behaviour is not acceptable.


“I want to see the highest standards of behaviour that underpin empathetic leadership: integrity, honesty, transparency.”


From his leadership, Matt Hancock promised: “You won’t find me beating up on NHS managers and leaders for the sake of the TV cameras or a good headline. I don’t believe less management and fewer leaders is the answer to our problems in the NHS. I think we need to celebrate leaders and leadership, and do much more to nurture and support.


“What’s important, is that it’s the right leadership. Because the right leadership determines performance: operationally, financially, motivationally.”


Providing support, training and development is necessary to empower people to lead this cultural change. The Secretary of State announced his intentions are to remove the ‘them and us’ obstacle between clinicians and other managers, making it easier for clinical staff to become managers and also to reduce the barriers that make it difficult for experienced people from outside the NHS to bring that expertise in to serve the NHS.


“In some parts of the NHS, there is a ‘them and us’ culture between clinicians and managers, when the only culture should be ‘we’. Because only together can we build an NHS that is there for everyone in their hour of need. Only together can we build a sustainable NHS fit for the future, one that delivers for patients and staff. That’s how the best Trusts operate and that’s how all Trusts must operate. So that culture must change. Because it doesn’t make sense.”


Matt Hancock also discussed diversity and the need to get more women and more BME representation on NHS Trust boards.


“Diversity of thought is essential to the future of the NHS. It is essential to make the best, and most intelligent use, of the £20 billion a year extra we’re putting into the NHS. And this applies to outsiders coming in, as much as it does to insiders moving up. Because, at the moment, we don’t have enough leaders.


“At the moment, nearly 1 in 10 Chief Executive positions in the NHS aren’t permanently filled. That can’t continue. We need stability. We need to be able to plan for the future with confidence.


“We need to find 20 more people right now with the skills, grit and ambition to be an NHS CEO, and 30 more people to be a Chief Operating Officer, just for us to stand still. So, we must embrace more clinicians and more outsiders at the top.”


The Secretary of State believes that moving the Leadership Academy to NHS Improvement will enable funding and resources to be better aligned in developing leaders in the areas where they are most needed. 


He also referenced charities like The Staff College, which is taking the best of what the military, business and education sectors do around developing leaders and adapting that training for the NHS.


“Leadership in the NHS means valuing everyone at every level, as part of the team that saves lives every day. To do that we need leaders who feel comfortable with empowering their team and taking risks to improve things.

Leaders with the ability to articulate a vision whether it’s on a ward, a surgery or a whole hospital.


“This is where we are. This is where we’re going. And this is how we’re going to get there. Inspiring. Communicating. Delegating. Empowering. Empathetic leadership. Not afraid of change. Embracing change. Driving change. That’s what we need from good leaders at all levels.”