If NHS organisations are serious about improving safeguarding practice, they must invest in developing the leadership skills of frontline staff.

In recognition of this imperative NHS East Midlands has embraced the opportunity to take forward the nationally developed Leadership for Influence: Leading Safeguarding Children Practice programme.

This national leadership programme was commissioned by the DH as a result of designated and named child protection professionals identifying a need to develop leadership, influencing and negotiating skills.

Following the development of an initial framework, a consultancy company was commissioned to design and develop materials and undertake a pilot programme. This was then followed by a rigorous consultation process, an independent evaluation of the pilot programme by Huddersfield University and subsequent revision of the materials. 

This programme has been delivered in most strategic health authority regions across England. The programme consists of four modules:

  • personal development and leadership styles
  • political awareness and leadership
  • quality, performance and organisation
  • managing change, sustaining development, and service development

It is based on a model that provides a visual representation of the relationships between the learner, learning outcomes and the competency framework.

NHS East Midlands recognised that increasing responsibility and accountability for safeguarding placed growing demands on the knowledge, skills and expertise of the named and designated professionals. They also recognised the enhanced role that primary care trusts have for commissioning, performance and quality assurance.

The approach taken across the East Midlands was to develop in-house trainers to take the leadership programme forward. To achieve this aim aspiring trainers had to complete the leadership programme and, in tandem, undertake training for trainers. 

The outcome of this was that three trainers, two consultant nurses and a consultant paediatrician, commenced the challenge of delivering the 2009 programme.

One of the greatest difficulties for the trainers was the increased workload, both balancing the commitments of busy day jobs within their individual organisations and the need to understand the materials and deliver a complex programme to experienced and knowledgeable safeguarding professionals. This was necessary to maintain credibility among the group and professional integrity to deliver the programme to a high standard.

The trainers also had to face the changing political climate within the arena of safeguarding children. This was an additional factor that had to be acknowledged, as the programme had been developed prior to the death of Baby P.  The vacuum thus had to be filled by responding to the changing terrain and ensuring that the current safeguarding environment was related to the leadership programme. 

An incidental benefit of the programme has been the opportunity for the designated and named professionals to network with their colleagues within other teams throughout the region.

Outcomes for participants

  • Enhanced skills in communicating safeguarding children issues
  • Use of “correct language” to achieve change and influence
  • Reflection and networking opportunities
  • A tool box of skills to immediately apply in safeguarding children practice
  • Increased self confidence
  • Enhanced competency in negotiating and influencing change in safeguarding

The future

If NHS organisations are serious about improving safeguarding practice this programme affords a real opportunity to fully engage with the programme, ensuring that delegates are not only supported to attend the course, but that there are on-going opportunities in the workplace for the continued development of leadership skills. 

Leadership is a dynamic process with obvious benefits for the organisation, and ultimately children and young people within our communities.

NHS East Midlands is committed to developing clinical leaders and in addition to the core programme have commissioned masterclasses in team and individual personality and preferred work styles, developing investigative skills, report writing and training in media handling techniques.