Introducing the NHS Regional Clinical Leadership Fellow Blog Series by Rammina Yassaie

Seven Regions. Seven Professional Groups. One strong community of future leaders.

As I approach the end of my year as an NHS Regional Clinical Leadership Fellow, I am filled with mixed emotions; immense pride for what my colleagues have achieved in the first pilot year of the scheme, excitement to see what the future holds for us all as we plan our next steps, along with a touch of sadness that this once in a lifetime opportunity is coming to an end.

The NHS Regional Clinical Leadership Fellow Scheme provides clinicians from 7 different professional backgrounds (nurses, doctors, midwives, AHPs, dentists, pharmacist and healthcare scientists) the opportunity to work within one of NHS England’s 7 Regional teams for 3 days per week, to gain experience of system leadership, service improvement and transformation. As a regional scheme, it aims to address the challenge of geography by providing equal opportunities to colleagues from all corners of the NHS in England, as well as equity between the clinical professions, and an opportunity to share, learn and reflect together as a cohort of multi-professional clinical leaders.

The part-time nature of the fellowship offers unique challenges, but in truth, it is almost a double-edged sword. On the one hand, seeing the positive impact our own leadership initiatives at regional level were having on patient care, whilst at the same time noticing, with greater urgency, where change or additional support in our increasingly pressurised frontline services were needed.

Whilst many of us would have hoped that the years that followed the notorious year of 2020 would have been easier for the NHS, sadly that was not to be. Our fellowship year has been filled with complexity, volatility, ambiguity and uncertainty: the true nature of NHS leadership. The COVID-19 pandemic provided the fellows with many challenges to tackle within their regional teams: increasing vaccination uptake, navigating the complexity of mandatory vaccines for NHS staff and the mammoth task of covid recovery, to name a few. Volatility in Europe and withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan placed greater focus on refugee healthcare in our communities, whilst COP26 and the extreme weather we have faced over the last year reinforced to many of us the urgency with which the NHS must meet its net zero commitments. Importantly, the theme that threads all of these and many other challenges together: the health inequalities within our communities and the ‘inverse care law’ where, perversely, those who need healthcare the most are least likely to receive it. It was, therefore, rather apt that Dr Bola Owolabi (GP and Director – Health Inequalities at NHS England) concluded our recent fellowship graduation event with her keynote speech and powerful remarks on how the most important leadership legacy we must leave is to narrow the gap of health inequalities in our communities. The resilience and perseverance of our cohort of fellows navigating these turbulent waters as they attempt to leave their own leadership legacy in this incredibly complex space, whilst also managing the frontline challenges that run alongside them, is a testament to both their grit and determination.

Working as a clinical leadership fellow at a time of NHS transformation also meant that there were countless opportunities to feed into pressing reviews and reports into topical challenges in the NHS. The Fuller Stocktake review into integrating primary care, which I, as a doctor working in General Practice, was able to feed into along with one of the dental fellows on the scheme, allowed us to have meaningful discussions that went beyond dwelling on our current primary care challenges, but rather offering suggestions for a brighter future. It was encouraging to see some of our reflections referred to within the report. The fellows were also provided with the opportunity to share our thoughts on the importance of collective, collaborative and inclusive leadership at one of the Messenger Review round table events which was incredibly empowering. The release of the Ockendon Report also shaped the leadership endeavours of the midwifery fellows on the scheme and is likely to shape the work of many of the incoming fellows in September.

For me personally, when I reflect over the last year, the opportunity to connect and network with colleagues from the 7 different professional backgrounds was not only refreshing but also truly inspiring. It has reinforced my long-held belief that there is so much beauty in multi-professional working that often isn’t nurtured as much as it should be in healthcare. When I consider primary care leadership and note that the majority of PCN Clinical Directors are GPs, I do hope that multi-professional schemes, such as this one, will provide an avenue for diversifying our NHS leaders, widening the pool of candidates able and willing to apply for such roles, as well as encouraging the importance of recognising the true value that clinicians from all of the different professions have to offer in the leadership space.

With a strong passion for leadership development of clinical colleagues, the final few months of my fellowship has been spent as the self-proclaimed “fellow to the fellows”, where I supported the Clinical Leadership Development Team at the NHS Leadership Academy to build on and celebrate the success of clinical fellows on the scheme, whilst also supporting preparations for our next intake of fellows in September this year.

Over the next 7 weeks, this blog series aims to share some of the stories from our fellows, across each of the 7 professional backgrounds, from their last 12 months as leaders within regional teams.  The outputs, reflections and insights of my colleagues on this first pilot year of the NHS Regional Clinical Leadership scheme highlights the power and potential that is waiting to be unlocked by our next generation of healthcare leaders. It is a critical time for the NHS, and this scheme does the right thing by inviting clinicians from all different backgrounds, early to the table to support health and social care priorities and to meaningfully shape the future of the NHS.

Dr Rammina Yassaie

Dr Rammina Yassaie is NHS Regional Clinical Leadership Fellow, GP Registrar, and self-proclaimed ‘fellow to the fellows’ for the NHS Regional Clinical Leadership Fellow scheme. Rammina is currently an NHS Regional Clinical Leadership Fellow working closely with the NHS Leadership Academy. She is a GP Registrar in Yorkshire and incoming Senior Lecturer in Leadership at Sheffield Hallam University. She is alumni of the HEE Yorkshire and Humber Future Leaders Programme (2016) and co-founder of the HEE Yorkshire and Humber Leadership Faculty. She is North Lead of the FMLM Trainee Steering Group and her interests are predominately around compassionate leadership and staff wellbeing. She is also a longstanding advocate for multi-professional learning and development.

Declaration of interests

I have read and understood the BMJ Group policy on declaration of interests and declare the following interests: none.

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