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2 January 2017
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An opportunity to see the NHS from a different perspective

Shamim Nassrally

I’m four months into the National Medical Director’s Clinical Fellow Scheme and absolutely loving every moment of it. It’s completely different from my day job as an acute internal medicine registrar, and the initial settling in period was more uncomfortable than I had imagined.

I’m used to dealing with uncertainty, acutely unwell patients, and distressed relatives in the organised chaos that is an acute assessment unit, but this role brought its own challenges and uncertainties. Nevertheless, that is the reason I chose to apply for this fellowship – to see the NHS from a completely different perspective. To go from the frontline to the strategic level was a culture shock.  To go from individuals to systems and services, and to consider urgent tasks as work that needed to be completed in days and weeks, rather than minutes, was unsettling.

I’ve joined NHS Improvement at a particularly interesting time. It has come together this year, and as the name implies, it is tasked with helping NHS providers in England to improve the quality of care, outcomes, finances and patient experience.

I work within the Medical Directorate, led by Dr Kathy McLean, Executive Medical Director. Some of our key objectives are helping trusts emerge from special measures, and improve the quality of care in trusts that need our support. I’m fortunate to have three other clinical fellows in the Medical Directorate with whom I work closely: Pablo Kostelec, Sumeet Hindocha, and Youssof Oskrochi. We’ve also been joined by another clinical fellow, Junie Wong, in the Operational Productivity Directorate.

As a group of clinical fellows, we’ve been fortunate to be able to discuss and develop ideas while also providing a support network. Our differing backgrounds have been invaluable in ensuring a variety of views, opinions and experiences. We’re working on projects varying from medical engagement and seven-day services to helping providers improve quality of care; we’re also collaborating with other directorates on projects such as workforce retention, sepsis and cancer.

We’ve had so many opportunities in the three months we’ve been on the scheme, attending interesting events and meeting really inspiring people. I’ve become an NHS graduate management scheme mentor, had media training, and received some finance teaching from the Department of Health Economics team. I’ve been invited to influence the HEE Annual Review of Competence Progression process, and I am co-leading the interview process for the National Medical Director’s Clinical Fellow Scheme 2017/18 intake.  I’ve been on trust visits and met hospital CEOs and Chairs. We’ve had the opportunity, as a group, to ask questions of Simon Stevens, CEO of NHS England, Lord Prior, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health, and the Chief Scientific Officer, Professor Sue Hill. We have regular action learning sets – leadership development sessions with Peter Lees, Chief Executive and Medical Director of FMLM – and will soon be starting monthly teaching sessions organised by Professor Sir Bruce Keogh.

I feel valued by my institution and this is reflected in the esteem in which we are held by the senior medical leaders within the NHS. Dr Kathy McLean recently said: “Clinical fellows are inspiring colleagues and watching them develop their leadership skills whilst making a significant contribution to the organisation is very rewarding”. Many senior clinical leaders are kind enough to make time in their busy schedules to attend the clinical fellow scheme host evenings and interviews, as well as informal dinners organised by the fellows throughout the year.

Another benefit of the fellowship is meeting an amazing group of trainees that have become my peer group. Probably some of the most talented and motivated trainees I have ever met. There is also an alumnus network in development, which will form the support structure for those of us fortunate enough to continue towards the summit of healthcare leadership.

I would whole-heartedly recommend the National Medical Director’s Clinical Fellows Scheme to anyone with an interest in clinical leadership, management, strategy and policy. It’s a year full of opportunities waiting to be seized!

Interested in applying to the National Medical Director's Clinical Fellow Scheme 2017/18 cohort? Find out more and submit your application by 16 January 2017.

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