Authenticated user menu

19 November 2021
Total views

Reflections from Leaders in Healthcare – was it the most important conference yet?

By Dr Claire Edwin and Dr Keerthini Muthuswamy

National Medical Director’s Clinical Fellows 2021/22

As National Medical Director’s Clinical Fellows working with FMLM this year, we were in a uniquely privileged position to attend the Leaders in Healthcare conference as part of the organising team. We both chaired sessions, and along with all delegates, we got to be part of the celebrations for FMLM’s 10th Anniversary. Not only was this the first time we had met each other and the rest of the FMLM team in person, but it was also the first time we had met many of the national and regional clinical fellows, past and present. Ryan Passey, Regional Clinical Fellow, summed-up the feeling shared by everyone we spoke to: “It has been really nice to meet people after a difficult two years.” It felt novel and exciting and as a result there was as real buzz around the Barbican Centre in London.

The great thing about a conference on healthcare leadership is the huge variety of clinical backgrounds represented, all interested in a common theme. We heard from inspiring leaders on key issues facing our healthcare systems, both nationally and internationally: Dr. Bola Owolabi, Director of Health Inequalities at NHS England and NHS Improvement; Professor Tim Ferris, Harvard Professor and Director of Transformation at NHS England and NHS Improvement; Dr Henrietta Hughes OBE, former National Guardian for the NHS; and Dr Nick Watts, NHS Chief Sustainability Officer, who spoke via live link from COP26 in Glasgow.

This year’s hybrid conference not only allowed for that long-lost face to face interaction but also the opportunity to hear from the UK Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) in a virtual panel session expertly chaired by Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges. It was pleasing to hear the CMOs reflect on their own self-care, as well as comment more generally on the need to prioritise support for a stressed and exhausted workforce. It was also enlightening to get a glimpse of the shared respect they have for each other as well as the ongoing collaboration and mutual aid across the four nations of the UK.

We heard from eminent international healthcare leaders from the western and eastern hemispheres, who shared their challenges and successes, not just in relation to Covid-19 but in the secondary consequences they are facing, such as rising opioid drug misuse in Canada, and how the climate crisis is impacting on healthcare around the world. The conference has left us with clear challenges but feeling inspired and motivated to develop as leaders ourselves and set our key priorities going forward.

As to whether this has been ‘the most important conference yet’, there is little dispute. Now more than ever, issues including climate change, health inequality and inclusion and diversity, have grown exponentially in complexity and severity across all healthcare systems, and our timetable for dealing with them has become more urgent. Collectively, we face huge challenges, but with challenge comes opportunity; this conference was a timely reminder that to ensure high quality, equitable and sustainable care going forward, we must act now, and we must act together.

As one colleague reflected: “My general take home message is that we have done enough talking, and now we need to… act. My hope is to go home and do something.” Charlotte Williams, Regional Clinical Fellow.

Similar thoughts were echoed by other clinical fellows, including Robert Cullum , National Medical Director’s Clinical Fellow: “There are two things I have taken away: one, how amazing it was to see people face to face, which allowed ideas and ways to collaborate to develop quickly and naturally, which felt really powerful moving forward; and two, it was great to hear how much the health inequalities were talked of across the conference.”

Many of us left feeling inspired and empowered to make change happen, be that through enacting the Core20PLUS5 agenda[1] or ensuring the message that “climate crisis is health crisis” must be spread widely, along with a call to action.

As clinical fellows, this has been our most important conference yet, particularly from a personal development perspective. It has showcased the qualities, importance, and power of good clinical leadership, and given us the added motivation and sense of purpose to reflect on individual and collective goals and how we can leverage the unique opportunities and networks available to us to further our own leadership development.

[1] Blog by Dr Bola Owolabi (4 November 2021). Help us to shape Core20PLUS5: NHS England and NHS Improvement’s approach to tackling health inequalities. Accessed from

 or  Register to add a comment


Array ( [0] => sitewide [1] => advert_external_leaderboard [2] => not_front_desktop [3] => advert_external_wideskyscraper [4] => attachments [5] => comments [6] => comments_login_prompt [7] => jobs_content_pages [8] => node-social-accelerators [9] => node_article [10] => related_content [11] => twitter_feed_rhs [12] => member_attachments_for_non_members [13] => advert_internal_desktop )