NHS culture ''rewards mediocrity'' in management

12 July 2013

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12 July 2013 | Adam Leach

Senior management and procurement professionals within the NHS have failed to become more innovative because they fear being punished for failing, according to an NHS director.

Speaking at the Westminster Health Forum, yesterday, Mark Smith, director of performance and development at NHS South Commissioning Support Unit, proposed that the management culture “rewards mediocrity”. He argued that innovation has yet to flourish in the national health supply chain as punishment outweighs praise.

Addressing the audience of buyers and suppliers from the health sector, he said: “For NHS managers, the penalty for failure is so much bigger than the reward for success. If that is the case, it inevitably rewards mediocrity because people behave in such a way that they limit the potential to damage themselves.”

However, he proposed that under the new arrangements, where commissioning groups will be headed up by clinicians, there will be a greater appetite for taking risks. This, he proposed, is down to their having “less to lose”. Quoting a doctor who is to head up one of the groups, he said: “If somebody wants to sack me after a year then they can go ahead, because I’ll go back to just being a GP.”

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