Sir Stuart Rose has told NHS Confederation conference delegates his report on leadership in the NHS will offer “practical and positive” recommendations.

The former boss of retail chain Marks & Spencer, who is due to report on his review to health secretary Jeremy Hunt by the end of the year, emphasised to the conference in Liverpool that NHS leaders would face particular challenges and require specific qualities.

Stuart Rose

Sir Stuart said technology was the ‘primary driver of change’

Sir Stuart praised the existing NHS leaders and told delegates: “You face exceptional pressures day in day out with relentless scrutiny from patients, their loved ones and the media.

“Always remember the patients come first.”

He said leaders should have an approach he described as “restless dissatisfaction”, saying: “Change is not easy, it does require courage and enormous energy, stubbornness and determination.”

But he also accepted leadership was “often a lonely role”.

He warned NHS leaders they could not hope to avoid change. He said: “You can’t escape it; if you try to fight it you will lose.”

Technology was the “primary driver of change”, he said. He added: “The world has changed beyond recognition.”

Sir Stuart told the conference in Liverpool: “I know nothing about the NHS; I have never worked for it.” He praised the staff he had met during visits to hospitals, and said he hoped his report would present “some practical and positive ways the service might face up the enormous leadership challenges it faces.”

He gave away little detail about what he would say.

Sir Stuart said he had seen “a real desire to win, to excel and a real passion for the service” among those he had spoken to but added: “Organisations know, deep down, when they are not performing…but they need a catalyst.”

He said the scandal of poor care at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust had been a “very sad and tragic” catalyst which had led to “real and beneficial changes” for the NHS.