How an MBA programme is helping staff to lead more effectively
Clinical and non-clinical leaders in London are thinking more strategically and commercially thanks to an MBA programme that helps staff be more effective in the workplace.
All areas of the health service are dealing with unprecedented levels of change. Staff are increasingly having to think more commercially, and while senior staff who have risen through the ranks have excellent clinical skills, often they have not been given sufficient general management training to manage budgets running into the millions of pounds.
In 2008 the NHS Next Stage Review identified an urgent need for a new emphasis on enabling NHS staff to lead and manage the organisations in which they work.
The report recommended that the best method to achieve this aim was to create new partnerships between the NHS, universities and industry. These clusters were created with the aim of improving management training in the health service, thereby enabling pioneering new models of care to be developed and then delivered directly to patients.
To help NHS staff negotiate these new waters Westminster Business School created a bespoke Master of Business Administration programme for members of The King’s Health Partners Consortium, which is made up of three NHS foundation trusts: Guy’s and St Thomas’; King’s College Hospital and South London and Maudsley.
The King’s Health Partners Consortium MBA programme, as it was called, was designed to help senior staff to think strategically, to think in the longer term and to be able to anticipate what may come further down the line.
In November 2011, 17 members of staff from across the three King’s Health Partners’ trusts graduated from the MBA programme. Staff ranging from clinicians to management and administration from each of the foundation trusts celebrated the successful completion of the course.
King’s Health Partners has secured funding for a second intake of the Executive MBA Programme which will begin in September 2012.
Kate Langford, a graduate of the programme and now deputy medical director at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Foundation Trust, says management training in the health service is “crucial” to enable clinicians to engage with managing the service and for them to be effective managers.
“To get the best out of the partnership of medical and non-medical managers both need to be able to speak the same language and formal management training for clinicians facilitates this,” she says.
“Kings Health Partners has been very farsighted in commissioning an MBA for a cohort of staff and this will pay dividends for the organisation.”
Kate was already working in a management role as a clinical lead while studying with Westminster, so she says she was able to put her learning into practice straight away. She says having her leadership style formally assessed has enabled her to lead more effectively and ultimately helped her be more effective in the workplace.
Peter Oliver, who is ET&D development manager for Guy’s and St Thomas’ Foundation Trust agrees that the need for clinicians to think more commercially is increasing. “We’re already operating in a competitive marketplace and this is only going to become more apparent in time.”
He says as a manager in the service it is essential to have the clinical skills and knowledge to understand the service itself but points out the huge sums of public money involved mean that managers and senior leaders also need to be business-like and efficient.
Peter says: “If you take the example of, say, a clinical director running a £100million a year budget – it is essentially a business and a very large one at that – and yet these people have had no training in how to deal with that. They are bright and capable people but we need to be able to support them to ensure they work effectively and the services are managed appropriately. We desperately need these skills.”
David Boothey, another MBA graduate of the programme is deputy general manager of Children’s Services at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Foundation Trust. He says the role of manager in the NHS is generally undervalued.
“Management provides a valuable contribution, and it’s through sound management practice that efficiencies can be achieved, particularly within the current climate where there is a need to reduce funding to the NHS,” he says.
Recognising that US medical training includes a portion of management skills, the students spent a week on an international study trip tailored to their needs, at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Maryland.
Director of MBA Programmes at Westminster Business School, Dr Susan Balint, said: “The rapidly changing landscape of the NHS – and other public sector services – means management skills are becoming essential in roles which were previously clinically focused. We were delighted to work with the King’s Health Partners Consortium to develop their senior staff, contextualizing our MBA programme, developing health service case studies and debating their specific needs in a complex world. The programme can be run for and adapted for other NHS trusts, or groups of medical professionals, who would benefit from managerial expertise and a broad understanding of business issues and how they relate to their sector.”