Turning things around – an NHS case study

Over the thirty-odd years since we founded Oxford Executive, we have coached many senior NHS leaders, their Boards and management teams. We’ve heard first-hand the challenges that they face in our modern health service and they ask us questions like how can they motivate their teams when often things look so bleak; how do they manage strategic change with increasingly limited time and resources; how can they turn things around? We experience their profound sadness that they are not able to deliver the quality of service to those who work for them and that their patients deserve.

However, one client story is particularly memorable because it demonstrates not how awful things can get for NHS leaders but how coaching really can help to ‘turn things around.’  This is a success story in clinical leadership where doctors and managers worked collaboratively to transform a struggling mental health service.

The Executive Director and Associate Medical Director of the mental health service came to us because they wanted to engage psychiatrists more closely with local managers, particularly in introducing more effective services for their patients.

We began by partnering up senior service managers with the lead psychiatrists and they undertook a coaching programme together. We commissioned a cultural audit to understand the challenges that both groups faced and the results were fed back to participants using the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. The audit revealed a history of mistrust and lack of communication between doctors and managers. While they shared common goals, they had not taken the time to get to know each other and understand their motivations.

We initiated away-days to enable the groups to talk openly and honestly, to understand each other’s’ roles and to agree a common mission

There was much work to be done and so we initiated away-days to enable the groups to talk openly and honestly, to understand each other’s’ roles and to agree a common mission. We also delivered individual coaching for all participants to help them to work more effectively.

An essential element of the programme was role modelling and the participation of the Executive Director and Associate Medical Director, who had both also undergone a similar development programme that resulted in them developing an effective, collaborative and trusting working relationship. This positive outcome provided inspiration for our cohort; if they can do it, so can we!

We supported the mental health service for twelve months and repeated the cultural audit at the end of the year. The results clearly showed that by working in partnership and with greater understanding, the managers and doctors were able to deliver a better service to their users. They held more frequent catch-up meetings and worked more collaboratively to improve patient services and deal with problems as they arose. The success of the partnership model was apparent in the transformation of the service in terms of its credibility, capacity, performance outcomes and stability.

Now with this case study I’m not saying that leadership, team or organisational coaching is the answer to providing fair trade agreements on drugs provision, slowing privatisation or boosting investment in the NHS. What I am saying though is that coaching can give senior leaders and their teams the tools to navigate their way through the uncertainty and daily challenges that they face.  You will never read a headline that says ‘Mental health service works more collaboratively thanks to partnership model coaching’ but you might read a headline that says ‘Patient thanks mental health service for saving her life.’

If you’d like to talk to us about how we could help you and your people, please do get in touch. That first step maybe the best step you ever take.

Email us at beBrilliant@ox-exec.com

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