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Bringing NHS Impact to Life: What Executives Can Focus on Now 

Virginia Mason Institute

NHS Impact is taking root across the nation’s trusts and practices, with many executives both eager to do their part and unsure of where to start.  

A few months ago, I joined a panel — including Professor Andy Hardy, Chief Executive, UHCW; Adam Sewell-Jones, Chief Executive, ENHT; and Dr. Gary Kaplan, former Virginia Mason Chairman and CEO — to share insights with 150 leaders from across the NHS England system and learn more about their challenges. 

Chiefly, they wanted to understand: 

  • The role of a leader in delivering a Quality Management System 
  • How to create psychological safety for all their people  
  • How to stay resilient and motivated over the long term 

Seizing the opportunity to lead differently 

Adapting new Leadership Behaviours is a focus of NHS Impact, but most leaders feel so busy and exhausted they can’t fathom taking on new responsibilities or unlearning disabling legacy approaches. 

When we as leaders are “too busy,” it’s often with tasks to which we don’t truly add value. What if we excused ourselves from those tasks? Historically, that hasn’t been allowed — but we’re in a new paradigm. NHS Impact is your green light: Reorganise your job to spend time on what matters most. 

To counter exhaustion, leaders can surround themselves with fellow champions of change. When the Virginia Mason Institute supported five NHS trusts in creating new management systems, we gathered monthly with their chief executives and NHS officials to share stories, challenges and advice. Executives found the group so invigorating that we’re resurrecting the idea this year with a larger international cohort. 

Paving the road to psychological safety 

With staff burnout and shortages fueling each other and holding everyone back, healthcare teams need a workplace that feels safe and rewarding. Now is the time for executives to seed a healthier culture through civility, empathy and respect.  

How? By defining the values and behaviours that enable constant improvement and making them part of daily interactions and conversations. Words on a poster aren’t enough. Values come alive when we’re committed to talking about them, celebrating when they’re upheld, and acknowledging when they’re lacking. 

Sparking big changes with small improvements 

No one expects the entire NHS to change overnight — but no one has to wait years for results either. Find small things you can improve now, and use that progress to inform and inspire further improvement. 

For example, the fracture clinic at Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust addressed one of the U.K.’s biggest healthcare challenges — appointment backlogs — by converting more than 60% of emergency department referrals from in-person visits to virtual care plans. Patients were satisfied, wait times went down and quality didn’t suffer a bit. 

Remember: You’re building something special 

NHS Impact is the blueprint for an astonishing transformation. Keep that in mind when the going gets tough.  

By prioritising quality, safety and improvement across the entire system — 1.6 million patients per day — you’re not just making an impact. You’re making history. 

To learn more about bringing NHS Impact to life, explore this case study of real-world examples. 

Contact the Virginia Mason Institute. 

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