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Professor Sir Ian Kennedy’s report into the Breast Care service offered by the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust makes interesting reading; in particular as it highlights the way in which weak leadership allied to poor culture can cause unforeseen and sometimes tragic results.
In his executive summary Professor Kennedy refers to the events as a tragic story, “a story of weak and indecisive leadership from senior managers. It is a story of secrecy and containment. It is a story of a Board which did not carry out its responsibilities.” Within that story a hierarchical culture which was seen by some as oppressive resulted in inappropriate behaviour going unchecked. This was magnified by a passive Board which did not actively exercise effective governance. Because of this a surgeon who on the one hand was described as charismatic and on the other as not a team player who had unsatisfactory relations with other surgeons was able to carry out procedures which he had previously been told to refrain from.
It may be easy to dismiss this as yet another story from the NHS but it has far wider lessons. Weak governance, poor organisational culture, concerns being dismissed or not being investigated; these are charges which could as equally apply to business and to other organisations. In looking at the way forward the report highlights the fact that “Respect for patients is at the heart of what the Board does and stands for” and goes on to say “It is not enough to declare these sentiments in a vision statement and then move on to the business of the day. Caring for patients is the business of every day.” Caring for patients, caring for customers, putting them at the heart of every process; that is a lesson for us all.