CEO blog - Making the NHS the best place to work

I have the honour of chairing the work stream ‘Making the NHS the best place to work’, as part of developing the workforce implementation programme for taking forward the promises made in the NHS Long Term Plan. I am excited because improving staff experience is an objective in my appraisal as Chief Executive Officer of East London NHS Foundation Trust. It is also a central promise in our Trust strategy.

I find this stuff hard to do; at times it is uncomfortable. I work at it, I get it wrong and try not to keep doing things that don’t work. I refer to improvement science to guide me. I try to be patient, to celebrate small changes in the right direction. I rely heavily on the support of my thousands of colleagues in ELFT.

For me, the NHS really is the best place to work. The abundance of pride, love and fierce loyalty evident during the 70th birthday celebrations was a welcome reminder of this fact. There is however far too much variation in such feelings and the experience of many staff does not always reflect this.

I believe that there is a lot that can be done right now, within existing resources, to help make the NHS the best place to work. But this will only be possible if the thousands of people who are associated with the NHS make it happen. It will require a different kind of conversation with the wider population we serve. All this will require behaviour change at all levels of leadership.

Is this too much to expect? I don’t think so.

I therefore respectfully request all my leadership colleagues to join me in prioritising compassion, kindness and fairness. I am also asking for colleagues to join me in feeling comfortable with doing the right thing especially by acknowledging when we are wrong. I ask that we strengthen this endeavour by using data, outcomes and metrics to support us. I ask that we are able to seek help when we are struggling and to get the help we need without fear.

Our success as leaders should be measured. I believe CEOs of organisations must take personal responsibility for ensuring continuous improvement in performance for outcomes such as in Workforce Race Equality Standard the NHS staff survey and in dealing with concerns raised via Freedom to Speak Up. By doing so, we can make the NHS the best place to work a reality for all.

I was surprised to see cynics come out in force in response to the NHS Long Term Plan. They expressed eloquent views about why the plan might not be delivered. They reminded us of our failure to deliver previous plans, reviews and policies. I believe these failures can be attributed in part to lack of will, lack of ownership and to systems and processes which we, the leaders create that get in the way. “Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets,” someone once said.  I can’t get this quote out of my mind.

I am interested in forming a coalition of the willing, of like-minded leaders who want to come together now so we can start making the NHS the best place to work. Are you a leader with authenticity, humility and vulnerability? Are you comfortable with listening to difficult feedback and admitting when you are wrong? Do you think it’s OK to fail? If this is you, please join me.

Comments

  • Dr Umesh Prabhu, 18/03/2019

    Dear Navina NHS is one of the best asset we have. Í have given 36 years of service to this greatest institution. Í am glad you read your title Making NHS the best place to work. Saying is easy but doing It is leadership. When Í was MD of Wrightington Wigan and Leigh FT We reduced harm to patients by transforming Culture of bullying , racism and unicultural leadership to kind caring compassionte learning Culture and inclusive leadership and diverse leadership. We implemented good governance and accountability and created just Culture. We implemented staff happiness Culture and transformed the Trust. The Trust received 45 awards and for staff happeness the Trust improved from bottom 20% in 2011 to the third besr place to work by 2016! Your fínal para is interesting. Leadership is authenticity, honesty sincerity integrity and courage and sheer determination to transform. Í am happy to join you. Today NHS has Culture of bullying and snowy write speak and we must transform Culture of bullying and unicultural leadership to diverse inclusive but honest kind caring compassionte leadership which puts patients at the heart and create staff happiness Culture.


  • Dr Umesh Prabhu, 18/03/2019

    Dear Navina NHS is one of the best asset we have. Í have given 36 years of service to this greatest institution. Í am glad you read your title Making NHS the best place to work. Saying is easy but doing It is leadership. When Í was MD of Wrightington Wigan and Leigh FT We reduced harm to patients by transforming Culture of bullying , racism and unicultural leadership to kind caring compassionte learning Culture and inclusive leadership and diverse leadership. We implemented good governance and accountability and created just Culture. We implemented staff happiness Culture and transformed the Trust. The Trust received 45 awards and for staff happeness the Trust improved from bottom 20% in 2011 to the third besr place to work by 2016! Your fínal para is interesting. Leadership is authenticity, honesty sincerity integrity and courage and sheer determination to transform. Í am happy to join you. Today NHS has Culture of bullying and snowy write speak and we must transform Culture of bullying and unicultural leadership to diverse inclusive but honest kind caring compassionte leadership which puts patients at the heart and create staff happiness Culture.


  • Steve Trenchard, 08/03/2019

    Thank you I fully support this priority it is vital we always act with compassion. My PhD is in compassion and leadership in mental health nursing. As a former CEO who experienced bullying I am committed


  • Paul Feary , 07/03/2019

    A very good message Navina. My experience has shown me that the greatest source of staff satisfaction is customer satisfaction. Positive feedback from “service users” reinforces to staff that they are doing a good job and that motivates them and encourages them to do even better.


  • Varsha Dodhia, 07/03/2019

    Thank you Navina. Inspirational and you quote "Improvement Science" as a way to guide you. A key measure of any improvement project must be staff satisfaction which most projects either take it for granted or completely ignore. Change is unsettling but without staff morale, any change will be short lived. Should we have a measure within improvement which speaks about maturity of staff engagement/feedback?


  • Rachel West, 06/03/2019

    Yes, Navina, I will join you to work towards our NHS being a place where it is truly okay to try and not succeed as long as we learn, to be honest and compassionate at the same time and to work collaboratively, challenging assumptions and letting history teach us but not be a script that stifles us and prevents progress


  • Anita Pisani, 05/03/2019

    I’m absolutely with you Navina - I am passionate about making the NHS a great place to work. Compassion, kindness and fairness is what it is all about .... look forward to seeing you soon


  • Anna Hills, 05/03/2019

    Truly inspirational Navina - and yes I would absolutely love to join you in a coalition to make the NHS the best place to work Anna Hills CEO James Paget NHS Foundation Trust


  • Liz Dawson, 05/03/2019

    Dear Navina, I echo all your thoughts and think that now is the time for leaders to step up and serve the leadership roles they are in. I love the quote ‘it’s not what the world holds for you, it’s what you bring to it that matters’. I hope that great leaders within the NHS can make themselves vulnerable enough to openly admit that they are hopeful, they don’t know everything, that they are prepared to try and fail and try again and that they will give all that they can to their roles. Please continue to be an inspirational leader to people like me. I believe we can all make a difference, we might just have to do things differently first.


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