When we hear that a friend or relative has needed to go into hospital for treatment, we empathise but also feel assured that they are in the best possible place to get better.
We feel assured because we imagine them being treated in a caring and compassionate environment; where doctors and nurses fully understand their needs and are focused on providing the highest quality of care.
This isn’t an idealistic perception. It’s just what we naturally (and rightly) expect when we or our loved ones are at our most vulnerable. And most of the time this is exactly the kind of care we are given.
But in 2009, our confidence in the health system took a huge knock when details emerged of the systemic failings at a Staffordshire hospital.
What happened has been well documented over the years and has caused much debate about the quality and regulation of care, and the calibre of leadership within England’s hospitals.
It has challenged not just one hospital, but the entire system to stop, look inside and accept that the way we’ve been doing things has sometimes been at odds with the values we place on healthcare in this country. This challenge will be more explicit than ever in the coming weeks when we see the public release of the long awaited Francis Report – a comprehensive, no holds barred examination of the quality of care in England’s hospitals.
While we will only know the precise details once we have the report in our hands, we know that there will be a big focus on culture and leadership within organisations – from the board right through to the ward.
I expect the report will reiterate what research has confirmed for us: that our hospitals absolutely won’t meet quality and financial challenges that lie ahead without moving from a model of ‘demand and deliver’ to a more shared, distributed and adaptive model of leadership.
Research tells us that leadership needs more of an engaging approach based on collaboration and building cross system relationships. Our leaders need to be able to create cultures and environments where staff feel empowered to provide compassionate and effective care to patients.
These elements will be a priority for the Academy in our leadership development work going forward and I expect will synthesise with facets of the recommendations in the report. I look forward to sharing my thoughts with you when the report is released in the coming weeks.