NHS Reset: Compassionate leadership must become NHS' blueprint | Maz Fosh

Maz Fosh

NHS Reset is an NHS Confederation campaign to help shape what the health and care system should look like in the aftermath of the pandemic. 

Here Maz Fosh considers the changes ushered in by COVID-19 and how it has brought into sharp focus the need for compassionate leadership.

This blog was first published by the HSJ.

I was one of 13 chief executives who was interviewed for an NHS Confederation report titled The NHS After COVID-19: The Views of Provider Trust Chief Executives which is published today (29 July.
 
Taken together, the message from leaders and clinicians across the UK has been clear: we must build on the progress made to chart a new course. 
 
My personal leadership reflections would be that we have talked at length how the NHS cannot go back to old ways of working. This has to be the same for leadership in the NHS, never has there been more of an opportunity for compassionate leadership to come to the fore.
 
As a newly appointed chief executive whose career route has been from a people/human resources background, I can honestly say this pandemic has brought into sharp focus how compassionate leadership must become the NHS’s leadership blueprint.
 
It would be fair to say that pre-COVID-19, this could often get lost in between the cracks of transaction, reporting, onerous meeting schedules and heavy workloads.
 
However, during the pandemic, I have seen and experienced leadership that prioritises ‘what truly matters’ and at a time of significant stress, uncertainty, and very demanding workloads.  
 
On a personal note, I have been truly humbled by our health and care colleagues. At a time of uncertainly and fear, our people stepped forward and put themselves front and centre of the battle against this horrendous virus. From those who have delivered front line services, to those who have been redeployed to other services or organisations or whose corporate role changed overnight to ensure frontline services were properly supported.
 
When considering my biggest learning during these unprecedented times, I would have to say, it has certainly been that it is the little things that really do matter.
 
This included writing personal letters to over 370 children of our dedicated colleagues to recognise the sacrifice they had made by sharing their parents and other loved ones with us and our patients at this incredibly busy and strange time.
 
Personally, it has been a real pleasure to provide this small act to recognise the lengths colleagues are going to in keeping critical services running.
 
I have joined virtual cuppa sessions for a natter with those who are shielding or working from home, recognising isolation and limited human contact has been really tough for some.
 
I have openly been championing ‘it’s OK not to be OK’ in order that we provide physical, emotional and mental wellbeing support and advice to our colleagues and their immediate family members. It has also been important to communicate to our colleagues that we know they are doing their very best during these challenging times.
 
Whilst these are simple and small gestures, they have been shown to have the greatest impact on ensuring our colleagues know that we care. 
 
As I read the reflections of colleagues in this report, I can see that COVID-19 has changed the NHS and social care, precipitating rapid transformation at a time of enhanced pressure and personal and professional challenge.
 
I join with them to echo the message that there is an opportunity post-COVID-19 not to return to the way we worked previously.

Maz Fosh is chief executive of Lincolnshire Community Health Services NHS Trust.

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