Happy Birthday NHS!

Happy Birthday NHSIts now 69 years since the first NHS hospital was opened on 5th July 1948.

How well do you know this Great British lady?

The NHS is huge and complex. The numerous organisations which form its constituent parts continually evolve, divide, grow and merge. Processes, authority and responsibilities forever shift with each change of the political winds. How can any single person ever expect to exert a worthwhile degree of influence, even if they wanted to?

Ultimately, every clinician wants to provide the highest quality of patient care and to practice to the very best of their abilities. Patient care, however, never happens in isolation. Each moment that a doctor is engaged with their patient is enabled – or in some cases hindered – by numerous systems: regulation, financing, resourcing, quality control to name but a few.

In the foreword of NHS England’s 2014 booklet ‘Understanding the New NHS’, Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, current National Medical Director, eloquently communicates both the importance of and the key first step for doctors to play an active part in challenging and engaging to shape the future. From an early position where he felt that “management” was someone else’s responsibility, Sir Bruce eventually realised, “If I really cared about how well patients were treated then I had a moral and professional responsibility to understand the system in which I practised.” He emphasises that “Young, enthusiastic clinicians can add significant insight into our biggest healthcare challenges, but unless you know how to channel this enthusiasm and how the system works, nothing will happen.” He ends by encouraging doctors “to empower yourself and your colleagues to get to know how the NHS works and really make it your own.”

Though Sir Bruce was speaking to doctors and representing NHS England when he made these statements, his words have relevance to clinicians of every discipline in all four corners of the UK – and indeed beyond.

Ideally, everyone shares this “moral and professional responsibility”. Senior doctors and leaders should bear these words in mind when considering the development of their junior colleagues. At Oxford Medical Training we emphasise the need to see beyond scientific, technical and clinical expertise – the need to support development in all aspects of practice. This is a regular topic of discussion during our various Teach the Teacher, Communication, Medical Leadership and Management Courses.

Understanding who’s who; who does what, where, how, when and why takes both time and deliberate effort. The encouraging support of a senior colleague who is skilled at passing on knowledge and enthusiasm is invaluable. It can be a vital enabler for clinicians playing their essential part in shaping the future of the NHS. You may or may not be or have access to such a person. Could you fulfil this role for others in the future?

Happy Birthday NHS

The words in the section above are the opening paragraphs from our book Everyday Medical Leadership and the NHS which is available as immediate pdf download or as printed copy by post. In the book we will explore the history, structures and finance of the NHS. We will consider the key drivers of organisational change, the conflicting challenges facing the NHS and the different approaches being taken by each of the four home nations of the UK. We will continually relate the ‘big’ topics to everyday leadership for doctors and clinicians of all disciplines.

We also use this book to support learning at the following courses, which are an opportunity to further develop your ideas and understanding via interaction with your peers:

Why not get to know your NHS including its triumphs, its flaws  and its challenges in more depth?

Stephen McGuire – Head of Development