As Chair of Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, one of the country’s foremost acute specialist provider hospitals, and a leading centre of Research and Innovation, I am bound to believe that we have much to offer as good practice to colleagues across Health and Social Care.
Here at Leeds Hospitals, we spend a lot of time listening to colleagues and ensuring feedback mechanisms are embedded into everything we do. Never assume – go and find out.
Boards need to listen and listen in the right way. This can mean hearing some uncomfortable truths, and hearing things that can be challenging in order to help us change and improve. But it’s vital that Boards know where the weaknesses are in their organisations and as so are then able to do something about it. Dealing with issues early and internally is so important. Get on top of things early before issues grow and become more complicated to handle.
Listening is an organisational strength; people are your assets so use them, listen to them, support them. Strong relationships are so important. It’s been proven that a happy, engaged workforce has a positive impact on patient care so let’s make those connections, have those conversations, listen and act.
It’s hugely important to speak up, and give people the confidence to be able to do so. It’s also about ensuring everyone in the organisation is able to have a voice – don’t let quieter people be drowned out by those who are usually quicker to feed back.
Recently, I’ve jointly led a National Independent Report: Leadership For A Collaborative And Inclusive Future, with General Sir Gordon Messenger. This asserts that ‘a well-led, motivated, valued, collaborative, inclusive, resilient workforce is ‘the’ key to better patient and health and care outcomes’.
In the report, we have implicitly acknowledged the changes that are happening in the NHS and Social Care organisational culture. In Leeds, we have established a fantastic culture and set of behaviours by co-creating The Leeds Way, i.e. our Shared Vision and Values that as colleagues we developed together several years ago, and which has been an inspiration to many other organisations to engage in similar programmes. Post-pandemic, we’re now undertaking a significant engagement exercise to listen again and understand from all colleagues if our values continue to work for us, or if they need to be evolved to meet our new challenges and ways of working.
Many of the insights that I was able to bring to the National Report have also come from my experience in the wider Leeds and West Yorkshire Health and Care System. We have developed sophisticated collaborative arrangements between Acute Trusts through the West Yorkshire Association of Acute Trusts (WYAAT) as part of the West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership.
Leadership in the NHS and Social Care needs to be collaborative and empowering. This is crucial because the problems we are dealing with are not simple; they don’t begin and end in a single part of the Health and Care system. They extend over what we were previously seen as sector boundaries but which are now areas of fundamentally important shared challenge and mutual understanding.
I believe LTHT has a very good group of senior people and people always ask me how we attract and retain good people. A big part of the answer is that you need to listen to and look after everyone in the organisation. We are, after all, a people business – our patients, their families and of course our staff which is clearly a huge responsibility for any Board.