Many people will be surprised at the statement that NHS trusts are undermanaged, although perhaps not surprised to learn they are over administered.

This is the conclusion of a report by The Kings Fund following a nine-month inquiry into leadership and management in the NHS. The report states that NHS trusts are in need of a new style of management leadership. A situation they describe as urgent in view of the harsh financial climate and big changes required in the NHS.

As the report states big changes are required in how things are done in most trusts. The culture change is to convince managers that poor performance is an issue for the line manager to address and can’t be simply passed over to HR.

However this is a deep rooted problem which stems from the traditional way of appointing managers. All too often excellent professionals are appointed to management posts with no clear understanding of what being a manager is all about and no desire to get involved in the messy business of taking people to task over their performance, attendance or behaviour.

In future when posts are filled people need to be recruited for their people management skills as well as their budget management skills and relevant professional background. Existing managers need to be given support to acquire the necessary skills and confidence to lead their staff.

Most organisations start with rewriting the job description and person specifications for management posts and go as far as redesigning their management development programmes. It is a start but the real challenge is, as this report states, to develop managers’ leadership skills. If you are interested in reading a case study of introducing such an in-house management leadership development programme, you will find a detailed case study in Equipping managers for an Uncertain Future, published by Russell House.

Chief executives say the daftest things

So I read in the Guardian this article by an NHS chief executive on their top tips for making savings. The timing of this helpful advice couldn’t be better because as you know the public sector is having to make savings. Up to 30 per cent in the case of some local authorities.

Most chief executives will have been struggling with demanding budget reductions for many months leading up to the new financial year in April. They will now be monitoring how effective their plans are in practise. What better time to get a master class from a high profile chief executive of a foundation trust who is also chair of a mental health confederation.

So this is how you do it:

  • Cancel meetings to save travel costs;
  • Stop using outside venues for meetings and training sessions;
  • Stop staff attending conferences;
  • Tackle sickness levels;
  • Use less agency staff;
  • Set targets for savings.

I am reminded of the comedy sketch where “Blue Peter” children’s presenters announce they are going to show the audience how to play the flute and how to cure all know diseases. The instructions for the flute are ”blow down here and place your figures over the holes”. They go on to say that in order to cure all know diseases they must “first become a doctor and then invent a cure for all known diseases”.

Simple really.