“The NHS benefits when staff can bring their whole selves to work”

Posted by: Chris Oliver - Posted on:

Chris Oliver, chief operating officer at Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, talks about the personal impact of the Nye Bevan programme, which helped him progress his NHS career and deliver a new Discharge to Assess model of care.

I joined The Nye Bevan programme not really knowing what to expect. I had done some pre-reading and got a feeling it was more than just your usual leadership development programme. Within my trust, securing a place on the programme was widely recognised, which really made me feel the NHS valued my input and could see the worth in developing me to be a future executive leader.

Inclusion, equality and diversity

For me, being a gay man, the initial part of the programme on inclusivity, diversity and unconscious bias was really powerful. The cohort I was part of became a very ‘safe’ environment from the start. It felt safe to be me and – probably for the first time – I could see the benefit to the NHS when individuals bring their whole self to work.

Exploring the role of emotional intelligence made me look at how I developed relationships in a new light. I’d always thought that I did this well, but I had never previously heard about the links between emotional intelligence and the imposter syndrome, as well as the strong linkages between the imposter syndrome and gay people. Understanding this has led me to research further into this area, which was also supported with research undertaken by Stonewall.

The ‘life cycle’ work we undertook in our learning sets was very powerful. We shared life events which had taken place sometimes years ago, but that still had a profound impact on us as individuals. Sharing these events with people I had met only days previously felt emotional, liberating and reassuring. I had always had doubts over my career having not taken the traditional university route and instead opting for a vocational work-based training route. Looking back over my career to date, I think this led to an inferiority complex of not being good enough. I had previously thought the feeling of self-doubt was just me, but during the programme the feeling was explained as ‘imposter syndrome’, and nearly everyone in the room had that lightbulb moment of realising they weren’t alone!


Service improvement


The ‘cross-boundaries’ module gave me a wider understanding of other organisations, their priorities and their regulatory landscape/pressures. Having a more in depth understanding of how the wider economy functions motivated me to improve key relationships across local services and implement a “Discharge to Assess” model of care (this is when patients are discharged to continue their assessments in a more appropriate environment than an acute hospital). Historically, cross-economy relationships had been challenged, but after having discussed competing challenges we were able to improve the experience of patients who no longer needed acute care. This continues to be measured and monitored by a group led by the divisional director.

Career progression


I have just been appointed as chief operating officer at Mid Cheshire Hospitals. I have no doubt that I would not have felt able or had the self-belief to do this amazing role or have been appointed had it not been for the Nye Bevan programme. So for now, I want to build on the great work already done at Mid Cheshire Hospitals and see how I can improve care for our patients by engendering a culture of inclusivity and trust across both the health and social care economy. I’m really looking forward to working with the teams in Mid Cheshire, seeing what makes them proud and what frustrates them and how together we can strive to deliver high quality care we would want our families to receive, all the time.

The Nye Bevan programme is the best experience I have had in all of my educational and work career. You start to understand very early on in the programme that this is different, that you are really valued for your input. The friends I have made on the learning set are an amazing support to me still and we have all said we’ll continue to meet up. The whole experience of the programme equips you to be ready for that executive position. I feel honoured to be an executive director in the NHS, to be able to shape and influence the health and social care agenda is an amazing opportunity, and the Nye Bevan programme made this a reality for me.

Patient care

I’m really keen that operational management isn’t seen as detached from patient care. Sitting in a room listening to patients telling you about how both positive and negative interactions with healthcare individuals made them feel – how one person’s actions can have a huge impact on another person – was very humbling. My mother is currently receiving cancer treatment, and seeing healthcare from the patient and family perspective has made me more connected with how culture impacts on patient care. I’m a firm believer that engaged and appreciated teams really do deliver improved outcomes for patients.

The Nye Bevan programme gave me the confidence to be proud of what I’ve achieved, to celebrate my success and the journey I’ve been on. This self-awareness and a focus back on my core values has further-helped me foster a culture of inclusivity, accountability and a continued focus to improve patient care, not just for current patients but for future generations.


Aimed at senior leaders in the NHS, the Nye Bevan programme offers support and learning to build personal resilience, confidence and capabilities over 12 months. The programme has also been shown to accelerate individuals into executive roles, helping them perform better at board level.

You can find out more about the Nye Bevan programme here.

2 replies on ““The NHS benefits when staff can bring their whole selves to work””

  • Excellent article, very powerful and a relief to know that we all have those “moments”.
    Hope you are enjoying your new role.

    Helen Lundy
  • Honest and motivational…
    Well deserved achievements Chris.

    Paul Smyth

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