Lively debate at our first board meeting

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This week I was privileged to attend the first Programme Board meeting for the NHS Leadership Academy chaired by Sir David Nicholson.

We made a great start on the road to professionalising leadership in the health sector.

As we go forward with our plans to develop outstanding leadership in health in order to improve people’s health and their experience of the NHS, the Board will be crucial to ensure we are moving in the right direction.

The expertise around the table is invaluable, with contributions made during the day by colleagues working across the spectrum, from Foundation Trusts to CCGs and the independent sector.

Theirs were voices of experience, of wisdom and practical challenge. They will hold us to account while at the same time recognising that the changes we are planning are ambitious and long-lasting, and making an impact in the way we intend can take many years of collective effort.

The big issues tackled during the course of the meeting included our core programme proposal of professionalising leadership; specifically the right way to do it so we ensure we develop leaders with more breadth; who are capable of being more innovative and with the experience and expertise to lead health services in a new context and environment.

We also looked at system leadership which I covered in more depth in a recent blog posting. It’s a crowded field with a lot of good practice already out there. But that gives us the opportunity to learn from the best and we will grasp that opportunity with both hands.

Finally there were discussions on the issue of inclusive leadership. I can’t emphasise enough how important it is for the future leaders of the NHS to be more representative of the communities they serve. All the evidence suggests that leaders who reflect the diversity and culture of their communities create better patient experiences.

While this is a progressive agenda, much more remains to be done. The debate needs to move to the next level – namely broader issues of inequality. Patient and public involvement will be necessary to achieve this aim and it’s really important people get the chance to contribute to the debate. As we move forward we shall ensure we provide the platforms to allow views to be aired, leading ultimately to long-term irreversible change.

Colleagues on the Board are up for the challenges that lie ahead and I felt really pleased at their level of engagement – we made a great start.

The debate was lively and it is clear we have the right people in place to provide the Academy with the appropriate blend of understanding and insight, practical challenge and accountability.