NHS leaders must learn to lead their organisations on a 'day-to-day basis' and not get confused with a health service 'grand plan', management guru Sir Gerry Robinson has said.

Speaking to HSJ ahead of his speech to the NHS Confederation conference tomorrow, Sir Gerry said it was all too easy for NHS managers to get caught up in the 'rhetoric' of long-term planning on the NHS rather than concentrating on short-term, manageable plans for their organisations.

'Don't keep doing the long-term planning every day, go out and do things tomorrow,' he said.

Last year, a BBC2 series called Can Gerry Robinson fix the NHS? saw the business mogul attempt to turn around Rotherham foundation trust. At the time, Sir Gerry lambasted NHS managers and said the hospital 'was a shambles and the most frustrating thing is that it doesn't need to be like that'.

Fear factor

He told HSJ: 'There is a fair amount of fear among NHS managers. They are fearful for their jobs and of a strongly hierarchical organisation; it requires a fair amount of courage to run the NHS because of the factions.'

Sir Gerry added that NHS staff, however, seemed to be 'up for being led', including consultants.

'Consultants are a horsey bunch, but they need to be managed and encouraged accordingly. They can be managed. I'm not talking about bludgeoning them but encouraging them and bringing them into the management system,' he said.

The former director of Granada TV is currently filming a follow-up to the TV series at the trust, which is expected to air this autumn.

In the second series he aims to examine how central government interference affects the job of NHS managers and the day-to-day running of their organisations.

Policy concerns

Chief executive of Rotherham foundation trust Brian James said he was keen for Sir Gerry to come back to the trust to see what had changed following the last programme. 'I hope Sir Gerry is going to look at some of the policy issues of the NHS and how it affects us,' Mr James added.

Mr James said: 'If Sir Gerry takes some of these issues to the DoH perhaps he can get some explanation as to why certain policies are important to the NHS.'

HSJ understands that Sir Gerry is also set to have a meeting with NHS chief executive David Nicholson and other senior Department of Health civil servants about the 'ambitions of the NHS'.

On the future of the service, he said: 'I do hope Gordon Brown grabs the bull by the horns and finds a way of depoliticising the NHS. A huge obstacle to the NHS is the constant change.'

Sir Gerry said the government couldn't hold NHS staff accountable if they were constantly changing what they were asking them. to do.

And he added: 'You need clear objectives and a budget for the service. The DoH should take a back seat and not try to manage things on a daily basis. It would help a great deal if the NHS was taken out of the political arena.'