Reaching innovative heights

bdailyIn a recent interview with The Guardian, Sir Bruce Keogh, the NHS Medical Director discussed his perspectives on innovation, both clinical and managerial, in the NHS.

He defines innovation in a healthcare context as “anything that creates new opportunities for improvement or development”. Sir Bruce recognises that the NHS is an institution that has been built on innovation, and comments on the huge number of great ideas that are developed every day by outstanding frontline staff.

He does, however, raise concerns around whether these innovations can thrive if the leadership culture does not support them. He evangelises the concept of empowerment and that appropriate communication structures need to be in place for new ideas to flourish.

Having supported a number of private sector healthcare organisations with key hires for their leadership teams, we have recently investigated working with the NHS on a similar basis and have made initial contact with a Trust looking for support in executive search services. The first stage in the  process is to become an approved supplier which, of course, means following the procurement process. This is a totally transparent exercise, with a scoring system used in an initial PQQ to determine qualification in  the next stage of the process.

What is immediately obvious is that without prior experience of working with the NHS, it is impossible to score enough points to get through to the next round. Ergo, only existing suppliers will qualify as future suppliers. These organisations will typically follow the same tried and tested processes to identify the same profiles of people for leadership roles in the NHS that they have always done. This is surely one of the contributory factors to the lack of innovative leadership in the NHS.

In order to see real progress the NHS need to wholly embrace change. This includes opening themselves up to new ways of thinking, listening and interacting, and, dare I say it, new suppliers.

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