CEO Blog: My NHS 70th Birthday Wish

The NHS has been given a very special 70th birthday present; a significant and historic long term funding settlement. For many of us, proud to work in the NHS, this is an acknowledgement of our worth and of how our society values universal health care for all.

There has been much discussion about whether the settlement is adequate, timely or even appropriate as it is not linked to extra money for social care. I have listened to these debates with interest. I have also been thinking about my role as a leader, fortunate enough to be able to make a mark in the next stage of the NHS’s remarkable story.

I am nervous. With this gift comes a big ask. We have been told that we need to do things differently. I am pleased to see a shift in expectation which firmly supports changing the way we deliver health and social care. It makes sense. There are some who suggest that we could be incentivised to function more effectively. Others that suggest leaders could be judged on our ability to work together for the good of the people we serve.

I took the opportunity to remind myself of the seven principles in the NHS Constitution. These four recur:

• The patient will be at the heart of everything we do
• The NHS works across organisational boundaries
• The NHS is committed to providing the best value for taxpayers’ money
• The NHS is accountable to the public, communities and patients that it serves

I am just entering my third year as a CEO. During the past two years, I have been observing the behaviour of leaders with far greater experience and wisdom than me. I have done so in the hope of learning and acquiring skills for bold, not timid transformation, truly putting staff and patients first.

I sense that there is some urgency for a different style of leadership in this, our 70th year. We cannot expect that many of the old solutions which have failed to meet the needs of those we serve will be adequate for the future.

This long term funding promise is a one off opportunity and I can’t help feeling that a lot depends on how we step up to the task. Behaviour, solutions and models of the past should inform what we do in the future. We simply cannot do more of the same, just more loudly, with more effort and more cost. This means that we can no longer lead as we did in the past.

We should be given the responsibility to support the type of culture within our organisations which will be required to turn transformation into reality. I welcome this and want to be part of it. I want to be challenged and to be held to account as a leader in systems. I look forward to working with likeminded leaders to succeed. We need to do this with openness, transparency and humility.

From my observations of others I have learnt not to:

• Prioritise protecting my organisation or its income
• Put self-preservation and career first
• Look for change in structure or organisational form because changing our behaviour is too hard

From leaders I wish to emulate I have learnt to:
• Acknowledge there is room for improvement
• Ask for help
• Ask what I am prepared to give up

This is my birthday wish.


  • Edwin , 05/07/2018

    Thank you Navina for sharing your thoughts. Your blog resonates with me especially the things you have learnt not to do and that we need to work with openness and humility. I am proud to be a leader working for the NHS at ELFT and proud to be working with you and colleagues at ELFT and look forward to the future with great optimisim.

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