Published: 18/08/2005, Volume II5, No. 5969 Page 29

In the current climate of never-ending reform, effective leaders are more essential than ever. Alexis Nolan looks at how one trust is filling the gap

Focus and demand on leadership is stronger than ever in the NHS, and one trust has found a useful tool to support its development.

Calderdale and Huddersfield trust has become the first to receive the Investor in People leadership and management award, a model designed to help organisations improve the way they think about leadership at all levels.

Linda Cordingley, the trust's head of learning and development, says: 'It proves that we have got all the processes in place to recruit and develop our managers and leaders. It gives us a good framework to work with to align all our processes towards good leadership.' The trust began working on the model last year after it was approached by its local learning and skills council to be part of a pilot scheme for the award.

'We were already undergoing quite a number of changes because we were thinking about making an application for foundation trust status. We were looking at our leadership and management and had done quite a lot of work with key leaders in the health and social economy outside our trust, ' says Linda.

'We were undergoing review of our leadership strategy when the learning and skills council approached us midway through this process. It was an opportune time.' Linda says working on the standard, which took around six months, helped to put in context and examine areas around recruitment and performance management.

'Our existing processes were quite robust, but it did give us pointers in reviewing recruitment selection processes and in knowledge skills framework implementation. That all fits into the competency framework we will need for our leaders and managers.

'It helped us to see the links between people with the right skills and whether they have the right potential. If you do not recruit in that way, you perpetuate what was done before and you do not get the right leaders.' Linda also says the work has helped the trust reinforce its view that leaders are not just at the top of the organisation or in managerial positions but right through it, whether staff are involved in project work, frontline staff at the point of care or clinicians.

She says the strength of the model is that it forces the organisation to step back and think about how it works. 'The important thing is to evaluate what you are doing. If things work, we carry on doing the same.'