The chief executive of the organisation representing NHS employers – the aptly named NHS Employers – has conceded that all efforts to attract talent from outside the NHS into leadership roles within the service have met with decidedly underwhelming success.

Dean Royles was speaking at an event in London addressing the subject of diversity and inclusion. He did not mince his words when an audience member asked why “just the same old NHS people” were consistently taking up leading NHS positions. Mr Royles bluntly admitted that even though the NHS had tried various things to attract leadership from other sectors and industries, these initiatives had so far met with little success.

There had been rather more success in recruiting non-executive directors from other sectors, he added – the kind of talent necessary to challenge the existing culture. For many top NHS roles, however, he pointed out that “you actually do need NHS experience.”

The significance of Mr Royles,’ comments, of course, lies in the shocking findings of the Francis report, which revealed atrocious mistreatment of patients at the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust. Mr Royles himself pledged upon the report’s publication that the NHS would continue to “recruit on values and train for skills.” He also said the report “leaves the NHS with the world’s largest organisational development challenge.”

One modest solution, which was not mentioned by Mr Royles, might be to headhunt flexible professionals with managerial experience into leadership positions on a project basis to oversee key reforms. There are plenty of skilled Umbrella Company Employees out there who could fit the bill.

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