Driving improvement through compassionate leadership and staff engagement

I was delighted to read this article by Professor Sir Mike Richards, Chief Inspector of Hospitals for Care Quality Commission (CQC) in which he explains the importance of compassionate and inclusive leadership.  Sir Mike explains how, through the CQC programme of inspecting acute hospitals, it has become “increasingly clear that one of the strongest indicators of a high-performing organisation that delivered good quality care was the quality of its leadership.”

Last year we wrote about the need for compassionate leadership and how this is so important in creating a culture that support quality improvement – https://bethechangeasph.com/2016/09/26/the-case-for-compassionate-leadership/ – and it is great to see this supported by Sir Mike and the CQC.

In their 2016 State of Care report, which drew on the findings from many CQC inspections, they noted that “effective leadership and a positive, open culture are important drivers of change.”

Also that, in those hospitals that were rated as ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by the CQC, “the Trust boards had worked hard to create a culture where staff felt valued and empowered to suggest improvements and question poor practice.”

The article goes on to describe the learning about how compassionate and inclusive leadership is essential for supporting quality improvement; and…

  • One of the first steps on an improvement journey starts with changing the culture of the organisation. This is best done by engaging and empowering staff – underpinned by shared values.
  • Leaders who model compassion, inclusion and dedication to improvement in all their interactions are the key to creating cultures of continuous improvement in health and care.
  • Compassionate and inclusive leadership creates an environment where learning and quality improvement become the norm.

You can read Sir Chris’ full article here – https://improvement.nhs.uk/resources/driving-improvement-through-compassionate-leadership-and-staff-engagement/

We are fortunate to have many examples at ASPH of leaders who exhibit these behaviours and have seen the benefit that comes from supporting teams to make improvements and to experiment with small tests of change.

There were some excellent examples of how this kind of leadership has supported teams to make improvements at our second annual ASPH Quality Improvement event, which was held on 28th June.  The whole day was evidence that we have made huge progress in the last year.  Not only in making improvements in patient experience and patient safety, but in working together and supporting each other in our culture of curiosity and creativity.

You can read more about the event and see the short video here – https://bethechangeasph.com/events/qi-event-2017/

However, even though we have lots of positive examples that demonstrate the benefits of this approach, I think we would be naive to think that compassionate and inclusive leadership is applied everywhere in a consistent way.

We have been thinking a lot in the last few months about what more we can do to help people in leadership positions (both clinical and non-clinical) to be able to model compassion, inclusion and a consistent dedication to improvement, particularly at a time when the pressures on our system continue to grow.

Even though this can be hard to do, it is vital if we are to create what Don Berwick describes in his 2013 Berwick Report as a “learning organisation” in which “leaders create and support the capability for learning, and therefore change, at scale, within the NHS”.

In summary, I think we have a lot to be positive about, but we also have more work to do.  Let us know in the comments section below what you think; about Sir Mike Richards’ article; and what we can at ASPH to encourage more teams to embrace compassionate, inclusive leadership and improvement.


Mark – @MarkH_Work

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