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Success story: NHS Leadership Academy, The Mary Seacole Programme

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The NHS firmly believes in developing its leaders to meet the challenges it faces. In response to the report by Robert Francis QC published in 2013, the NHS committed to the robust and rigorous development and professionalization of leadership at all levels in the NHS.


In response, the NHS Leadership Academy engaged The Open University Business School and the Faculty of Health and Social Care at The Open University (OU) along with Hay Group in a collaborative partnership to develop common standards of leadership and provide leadership education to all staff taking up their first leadership role across clinical and non-clinical professions in NHS England.

The OU team led the design and delivery of The Mary Seacole Programme, named after a Jamaican woman who battled discrimination to become a pioneer of modern nursing. The year-long programme allowed students to gain a post-graduate certificate.  It was conceived, designed and launched at an unprecedented scale within nine months, with over 1,300 students enrolled before the end of 2013.

The programme blended highly engaging, media-rich online materials with face to face training that was delivered regionally providing opportunities for participants to network and share their experiences and best-practices with people from different organisations and professions. Participants were required to keep returning and applying the implications to their own practice. They were challenged to bring about improvement in their working context, whilst written assignments required them to chart and evaluate their progress.  Over 80 OU trained tutors guided students along this innovative learning journey. Students delivered a critical assessment of what they achieved and what they learned about leadership.


Over 4,000 NHS staff have now benefited from the programme, leading to improvements in the quality of care patients receive, and in the efficiency of hard-pressed NHS organisations.

The NHS Leadership Academy now has a database of several thousand Mary Seacole improvement projects across the country, where participants have documented their achievements.  The NHS benefits from an active network of alumni who feel equipped to help the NHS function better.

Not only has the course expanded my overall knowledge of the NHS, but it has also introduced leadership theories and reflective learning. I have been able to consider my working environment from different perspectives and apply new thinking in my roles. In short, The Mary Seacole Programme has been a real eye-opener and allowed me to expand and develop my skills, knowledge and experience within the NHS.

Team Leader, Administration, NHS South West

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