Career advice

Improving patient care through effective leadership 

A multidisciplinary programme is helping clinical and non-clinical staff develop the practical skills needed to become good leaders.

A multidisciplinary programme is helping clinical and non-clinical staff develop the practical skills needed to become good leaders

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A leadership course for staff at Milton Keynes University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (MKUH) is delivering results for patients too, says the programme’s senior lecturer. 

‘Without a shadow of doubt, it’s having an impact,’ says Helen Cope of Buckinghamshire New University. ‘And that’s whether they are clinical or non-clinical staff.’ 

Support and challenge

The second cohort of the Leaders Engaging in Action Programme (LEAP) has just started a nine-month course, designed to build practical skills and competences. ‘It’s about the application of learning, so it's a leadership programme rather than an academic one,’ says Ms Cope. 

About half the first group of 16 students were nursing staff, but this is approaching 70% for the second. ‘We’re very good at training people clinically, but not so good at the management infrastructure or leadership skills that underpin it,’ says Ms Cope. 

Other participants come from any of the trust’s departments, including human resources, data management and catering. For Ms Cope, this is a bonus. ‘Multiple perspectives help staff appreciate where others are coming from,' she says. 'There’s cross-fertilisation of support and challenge.’ 

New protocols

Different modules include looking at becoming a leader and the principles of leadership, teamworking and how to get the best from others, managing change and communication. 

With one module exploring models of leadership outside the NHS, last year’s participants visited a private sector pharmaceutical company. ‘They found looking up and out from the NHS a very valuable experience,’ says Ms Cope.  

They are also expected to lead their own improvement project. For nursing staff, topics have included setting up new protocols and practices for the safe transfer of children, changing the culture of teams, and restructuring to improve patient care. 

‘Whatever they do, we want it to be tangible,' says Ms Cope. ‘On the last day of the programme, students are expected to make a presentation to their line manager and other senior leaders, demonstrating the impact they have had on the trust and how they have changed as a leader.’ 

Clear communication

Positive outcomes include increased tolerance and understanding of the issues facing other colleagues. ‘They learn to get the best from people who don’t necessarily think the same way,’ says Ms Cope. ‘They also learn to manage change better, be more confident and assertive and communicate more clearly. Their ability to lead a diverse workforce is another skill that comes from the programme.’ 

MKUH’s assistant director of education and organisational development Karen Camm, says: ‘The first cohort’s leadership skills and confidence have grown and developed well. We’ve been encouraged with the feedback and evaluation we’ve received from the delegates.’ 

The programme is now recruiting for the third cohort, which starts next year. To find out more email or 

Lynne Pearce is a freelance health journalist 

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