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Watchdog calls for more diversity at board level

New guide will help trusts appoint allied health professionals to top jobs

Mark Gould

Monday, 18 February 2019

The trust watchdog NHS Improvement has published new guidelines on developing professional diversity among senior management, particularly aimed at encouraging allied health professionals (AHPs) into top jobs.

NHS Improvement says Clinical leadership — a framework for action is a guide for senior leaders on developing professional diversity at board level, which discusses ways trusts can encourage more clinicians from all disciplines to pursue senior strategic leadership positions.


The guide and framework reaffirm recommendations from a previous NHS Improvement report Leadership of allied health professions in trusts: what exists and what matters, published last year, that trusts consider appointing a senior strategic AHP lead. They offer further evidence that leadership teams should reflect the breadth and diversity of the services they are there to provide. 

Key messages from the guide include:

  • professionally diverse teams are better equipped to meet the complex challenges facing the NHS
  • organisations can and should do more to actively involve clinicians in their leadership groups
  • there are many examples of how organisations can encourage more clinicians from all disciplines to pursue senior strategic leadership positions. 

The new guide and framework were developed with clinicians, exploring the barriers they encountered when moving into senior leadership positions. It is part of a wider programme responding to the government’s report, Barriers and enablers for clinicians moving into senior leadership roles.

The guide includes three examples of AHPs in strategic senior roles where each describes their own path into senior leadership positions.

Stuart Palma, professional head of AHPs at NHS Improvement, said: "Trusts are keen to develop the role of chief allied health professional (AHP). More than 65 have contacted us in the past six months for help with assessing their AHP leadership structures.

"I encourage AHPs to use the framework and guide, as well as our June 2018 report, to talk to their executive leadership teams about establishing chief AHP roles in trusts. Effective, diverse clinical leadership is crucial to the NHS Long-Term Plan, within trusts and local health systems. Indeed, the plan calls for AHPs to lead and support system-wide change. Strategic AHP leadership is absolutely essential to that.

"AHPs will be pivotal to the success of the Long-Term Plan’s priorities. To truly do this, the system must take seriously the call for dedicated strategic chief AHP leaders and make their appointment a priority."

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