Clinical Leadership

It is stated in the NHS Long term plan that ‘Great quality care needs great leadership at all levels’ (p89) and one level is clinical leadership. 

However clinical leadership can mean different things in different contexts.  It can encompass professional leadership of services, leadership of care, and leadership of change.  The clinical leadership theme encompasses examination and analysis of leadership relating directly to clinical and professional practice in health and social care. 

Learning from clinical leaders: What does leadership look like in a primary care setting? 

Dr Vish Ratnasuriya, GP at Lordswood Medical Group, Chair of Our Health Partnership, and Centre for Health and Social Care Leadership Affiliate discusses his experience of leading in health and social care.

Why do we need clinical leadership?

The need for effective leadership throughout health and social care has been a familiar refrain in policy from the Darzi Review, to the Berwick Report in which the need for leadership to improve quality was emphasised.  Similarly the Five Year Forward View identified that local and clinical leadership were crucial to the success of the NHS, a view recently endorsed in the NHS Long term plan.   It has also been argued that engaging in leading and managing health care, be it at the level of the team, department, unit, hospital or health authority – is a professional obligation of all clinicians. 

This can present a challenge because many practitioners argue that clinical work is difficult enough without the addition of significant leadership responsibilities.  However if clinical staff are to have an impact on the care patients receive there is a need to engage with leadership.

The clinical leadership theme is focussed on three areas: 

  1. Research to examine the nature and impact of clinical leadership.
  2. Design and delivery of a range of clinical leadership development programmes.
  3. Contributing to policy development and implementation in the area of clinical leadership.


Iain Snelling

Iain Snelling

Senior Fellow

Health Services Management Centre

Iain specialises in teaching, consultancy and research in management and leadership development in the NHS, service evaluation and improvement, clinical engagement in management and leadership. From 2011 – 2013 he was co-Director of the educational element of the NHS Graduate Management Training Scheme and the NHS Clinical Leadership Fellows programme, and from 2012-2015 he was ...

+44(0)121 414 3212

Clinical leadership Viewpoints 

Discussion relating to clinical leadership


Snelling, I., Brown, H., Hardy L., Cockburn, S,. Somerset L (2020) An evaluation of the Health Education England South West Clinical Leadership Mentors programme. University of Birmingham, Centre for Health and social Care Leadership. 

Snelling, I., Exworthy, M. and Ghezelayagh, S. (2020) The Chief Registrar role in the UK: leadership capacity and development of hybrid leaders, Journal of Health Organization and Management, Vol. 34, No. 1, pp. 1-15. Open access version of The Chief Registrar role in the UK

Snelling, I., Benson, L.A. and Chambers, N. (2019) How trainee hospital doctors lead work-based projects Leadership in Health Services, Vol. 33, No. 1, pp. 85-100. Open access version of How trainee hospital doctors lead work-based projects

Hewison A, Sawbridge Y and Tooley L. (2019) Compassionate Leadership in Palliative and End of Life Care-A Focus Group Study.  Leadership in Health Services DOI 10.1108/ LHS-09-2018-0044

Hewison A, Sawbridge Y, Cragg R, Rogers L, Lehmann S and Rook J. (2018) Leading with compassion in health care organisations: the development of a compassion recognition scheme-evaluation and analysis.  Journal of Health Organization and Management DOI 10.1108/JHOM-10-2017-0266

Dickinson, H., Snelling, I., Ham, C. and Spurgeon, P.C. (2017), Are we nearly there yet? A study of the English National Health Service as professional bureaucracies, Journal of Health Organization and Management, Vol. 31, No. 4, pp. 430-444. Open access version

Boyal, A. and Hewison, A. (2016) Exploring Senior Nurses' experiences of leading organizational change.  Leadership in Health Services 29 (1), 37-51.