Skip to content

This content is more than five years old


Listening to NHS managers

There has been much debate about the role of frontline clinicians in running health services, and questions have been asked about the need for managers within the NHS. The NHS employs 1.4 million staff and has a budget of around £100 billion, so it needs to be managed professionally.

So what do managers in the NHS think of the current situation? Do their roles and responsibilities reflect the leadership needs of the NHS? We spoke to a number of managers to find out more.

What is the role of an NHS manager?

We spoke to Laura Churchward about her role as Divisional Manager for Paediatrics and Adolescent Services at UCLH.

Listen to the interview with Laura Churchward

Judith Adams, Director of Operations/Programme Director, Salford Royal Foundation Trust

Leading others through periods of change, uncertainty and challenge requires personal commitment, energy, integrity and excellent communication.

'I'm an acute trust provider, responsible for operational management of clinical service lines and lead for the Trust's 'Safely Reducing Costs' programme. This programme aims to reduce our costs by £48m over the next three years while continuing to drive up quality and improve patient safety.

'Over the coming years, all organisations – whether they continue in their current format, are new, or are integrated with others - will require leaders of exceptional calibre. I think we are about to enter one of the most challenging leadership environments in recent times and we must make it a priority to ensure that good leaders are not lost to the NHS.'

Ed Tallis, North Cumbria, Divisional General Manager of Surgery & Anaesthetics

'I think they'll be a big swing in NHS management over the coming years – from 'leadership' to 'management', from transformational to transactional roles due to the financial challenge.

'In my role I deliver operational management and strategic overview of the Division of Surgery and Anaesthetics across two district general hospital sites, 42 miles apart and with around 800 staff and a £50 million annual expenditure budget. I have a management team who assist me in this role and to whom I offer leadership.

'My role fits into the NHS system by arranging acute hospital care for a population of around 400,000. I deal with national targets and priorities and translate these into day-to-day business, liaising internally and externally to ensure these objectives are met.

The role of the leader is increasingly pressured with competing demands and agendas. The NHS hierarchical structure will remain but with fewer chiefs in a very harsh environment. Resilience will be the leadership ‘order of the day’ and many transformational leaders will struggle in this environment.

'As is the way of the NHS, it is likely things will turn full circle and transformational leaders will once again lead – but not for a while yet.'

Mike Leaf, Deputy Director of Public Health at NHS North Lancashire

We spoke to Mike Leaf about his role as Deputy Director of Public Health at NHS North Lancashire, and about the challenges that face NHS leaders today.

Listen to the interview with Mike Leaf

Find out more

  • The changing role of managers in the NHS

    This short overview has been developed to further explore the themes around management and leadership in the NHS.

  • The future of leadership and management in the NHS

    What sort of leaders does the NHS need? Does the 'hero' chief executive still hold sway? This report concludes the findings of the Commission into leadership and management in the NHS.

  • Managers and the NHS

    This short overview has been developed to further explore the themes around management and leadership in the NHS.