As a collaborative partnership between key departments in the College of Social Sciences, the Centre for Health and Social Care Leadership is ideally placed to develop our understanding of what systems leadership means in health and social care, and the potential for this different way of thinking about leadership.
Systems leadership is not a new concept in health and social care but it has become increasingly important since the publication of the Developing People-Improving Care Framework in 2018 which aimed, inter alia, to equip leaders to develop high quality local health and care systems in partnership, collaborating across organisational, professional and geographical boundaries to build relationships and achieve shared system goals. Discussion around the development of systems leadership has also acquired momentum in recent months because of the NHS Long-Term Plan and its emphasis on Integrated Care Systems (ICSs), whose precursors were the 44 Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships formed by collaboration between local councils and NHS organisations. ICSs will “…take collective responsibility for managing resources, delivering NHS standards, and improving the health of the population they serve”. ICSs will thereby, according to the guidance, enable better local delivery of joined-up services, improve working lives for staff who must collaborate across organisational and professional boundaries, and facilitate the sharing of data on which new models of care will be based.
The Long-Term Plan is built on systems leadership, but this is not an uncontested concept and clarity is needed.
In this context, our work at the Centre has three main areas of focus:
- Evaluation: Exploring how Systems Leadership approaches are being adopted and the extent to which this is proving effective in changing the way health and care services are designed, commissioned and delivered.
- Development: Understanding the essential components of leadership development for collaborative leadership at all levels in complex systems of health and social care and designing interventions which incorporate these approaches.
- Research: Investigating the ways in which systems leadership in health and social care compares with systems leadership in other sectors – education, business, development – and with other approaches to leadership in the public sector.