In a recent interview, Ed Smith, outgoing Chairman of NHS Improvement boldly discusses the national framework ‘Developing People – Improving Care’ and his hopes for action on culture, collective leadership and talent management to secure the future for the NHS. 


As a framework it is important.  In the NHS, we talk a lot about structure but perhaps we should talk more about climate and the people centric nature of the NHS.  There is no doubt that it is a long-term journey, yet it is one that must happen and be supported by all.  Smith highlights the need to re-establish coaching as a priority, identifying those who will lead in the future and supporting and nurturing them to grow and develop. At the IHM, we wholeheartedly support this and affirm that leadership should be shared, distributed, and adaptive, and must not focus purely on competencies but on creating safe spaces where individuals can act, irrelevant of position to improve services and ultimately, outcomes for all.


Nurturing leadership may sound ‘soft’ but as so many of you will know, it’s actually really hard. Smith believes that at its heart is having meaningful conversations and treating people as people and nurturing our future stars through developmental stages, through coaching, mentoring, explaining mistakes and coproducing solutions. At the IHM, we believe that we should all develop talent at every single level within the system.


Throughout the interview, Smith acknowledges that collective leadership is also compassionate leadership. Whilst some may say that this notion is not realistic given the huge challenges currently facing health care, we are certain that the NHS truly needs to give this a real go. Over the decades we have seen that top down does not work. Smith agrees here and encourages people driven activity to oxygenate the talents of all of our people from the frontline, to management and into senior leadership positions. What is needed is the realisation that we all have the  same purpose – to deliver better outcomes for the people and populations we serve. Smith urges all colleagues to lower their barriers, get out there and join hands across departmental and organisational boundaries so we go to market together.



To conclude, Ed Smith discusses NHSI and how it sets the foundations for a really good, positive regulator. Regulation is about strong management, speaking the truth, being honest, being rigorous and robust when we need to be but equally being caring and approachable. He wants us all to be pushing out, allowing the system to breath and allowing the system to oxygenate.


Watch the full Ed Smith interview below