Tuesday 21 January 2014

The NHS ignoring the third sector....

Interesting to see 2 recruitment adverts from the NHS in the Sunday Times appointments section this week.

The first was from the NHS Leadership Academy. It is calling for “experienced business leaders" to join the NHS fast track executive programme.  And I suspect in framing this advert they did not think that the charity or social enterprise sector has “business leaders”?
Indeed a news story accompanying this from the DH made the point, that they want people from the private sector. So presumably not the third sector then. And certainly I doubt any leader from our sector reading this will think an application from them is welcome.

The other is from Oxford Health, a foundation trust providing mental and community services. It is looking for non exec directors. It says it “requires an outstanding individual offering substantial senior level expertise gained in the private or public sectors". Note the exclusion of the third sector. So as this is a "requirement" presumably no one from our sector need apply. What sort of message is that Oxford Health?  Especially when they go on to say want “patient safety" experience!

There are 2 problems with this discrimination (direct or indirect it’s hard to say?).

First, it ignores the huge significance of the third sector in delivering services, promoting prevention, acting as patient’s advocates and campaigning. As we need to move resources into community and prevention it is stupid not to want experienced professionals from the third sector in leadership positions.

Second, it ignores the wealth of knowledge and experience of our sector's leaders. We know in ACEVO that many of our members come from significant jobs in the private or public sectors. For example, just recently Jane Collins took up post as CEO of Marie Curie - she was previously CEO of Great Ormond St; the famous children’s hospital.
The head of the British Heart Foundation was previously in charge of a battleship. I could go on...
And the leadership of a top charity needs strong “business skills". Many business thinkers believe the sort of leadership skills displayed in our sector are exactly the sort of skills needed in 21st century businesses. It’s particularly true in a health and social care service.

 Many of our top national charities are big business. They employ thousands of staff as well as volunteers, for example the Red Cross employ3000 staff and 30,000 volunteers.  They have to manage difficult political and stakeholder interface work effectively with clients and patients and manage big budgets. They have exactly the leadership experience the NHS needs.

It’s particularly extraordinary that a mental health trust has publicly demonstrated its lack of interest in recruiting to their top board people from exactly the constituency they need to work with. After all, it’s the third sector that now delivers a third of all services in mental health. So I suggest that the trust and the head hunters Veredus look seriously at changing this advert; on the assumption it was not a deliberate attempt to discriminate against anyone from our sector.

And I suggest that the Department of Health similarity look at their recruitment to the NHS Academy. They need the leadership skills of top charity and social enterprise leaders. Its just plain stupid to ignore them. 

Is this symptomatic of the culture of an NHS that, when it thinks about charities and social enterprises, thinks first of volunteers making people cups of tea, or wheeling trolleys around wards rather than a professional service that delivers for patients? 

You might think its just 2 adverts, but this is a sad indication of how little the NHS thinks the third sector matters.

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