• Chair of the Bolton Foundation Trust says “trendy relational models” promoted on social media often are not practised
  • Donna Hall recently joined the trust after 15 years as a local authority chief executive
  • She praised Bolton’s chief executive for being “quiet, intelligent [and] humble”

The chair of an acute trust has criticised leaders who regularly talk about “trendy relational models” on social media, without them being practically demonstrated in their own organisations.

Donna Hall, chair of Bolton Foundation Trust, says “competitive, fear and blame-driven sovereign cultures” too often exist instead.

Donna Hall

Donna Hall, chair of Bolton FT

Ms Hall recently joined the trust after 15 years as a local authority chief executive in Chorley and Wigan. She also had a short spell as accountable officer for Wigan Clinical Commissioning Group.

In a comment piece written for HSJ, she said: “We see on the Twitter accounts of some NHS and council system leaders their promotion of trendy relational models based on kindness, humanity and trust.

“But we know, in reality, this doesn’t exist in their own organisations.

“Top down, competitive, fear and blame-driven sovereign cultures exist and positively thrive in many teams unchallenged.

“The modelling of these behaviours in real life, not just on social media, is harder to do in reality in a world of ‘never events’, ‘near misses’, ‘stranded patients and super stranded patients’ and the four-hour target.”

But Ms Hall, who succeeded David Wakefield as chair of Bolton FT, believes her trust has a “very different culture” from others. It was recently rated “outstanding” for the leadership domain by the Care Quality Commission.

She praised chief executive Dr Jackie Bene, and director of nursing Trish Armstrong Child, before describing the trust’s culture as “positive, accountable and creatively challenging”.

She said: “[Dr Bene] is a truly inspiring organisational and system leader. Her quiet, intelligent, humble, person-focused questioning leadership style has permeated the organisation from top to bottom.

“She is a trusted leader in the Bolton system, who leads on integrated neighbourhood working across the whole partnership – including police, social care, housing and voluntary system.

“[Ms Armstrong Child] has the same fierce, but calm, focus on quality. Not through blame and fear, but by encouraging and building a questioning culture where people feel safe and supported to speak out.”

‘Trendy’ leadership talk on Twitter goes unpractised, says NHS chair