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Evoking Darzi philosophy through a CPhO Clinical Fellowship

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Former health minister Lord Ara Darzi

Source: Stephen Chung / CrowdSpark / PA Images

Surgeon and former health minister, Lord Ara Wardkes Darzi, led NHS reforms.

Louisa Conlon describes her experience of applying for and being awarded a CPhO Clinical Fellowship at the Care Quality Commission.

In Spring of last year, I found myself stood in front of a classroom of eager Leadership and Management course attendees at City, University of London. It was the end of a whirlwind 10-week evening programme through the principles, behaviours and skills of utopian leadership. We had been asked to present briefly on our motivation for advancing our own competencies.

Having an innate interest in influencing and empowering healthcare, I struggled to narrow my impetus to one theme. After much contemplation, I realised the root of my desire to become an inspirational leader was framed in Darzi’s philosophy of ‘clinical leadership’ — obtaining quality improvement by empowerment of front-line clinicians.

Early influences

It was at Trinity College Dublin, a mutual alma mater of Lord Darzi, that the journey to my current juncture began. Graduating in the class of 2009, I completed my pre-reg in a community pharmacy where I relished the opportunity to get involved clinically in some of the care homes to which it dispensed. On qualifying, I stepped into a hospital role and soon set my sights on the UK for further education and training.

Residency at Guys and St Thomas’ bestowed upon me a foundation of competencies and behaviours from a pharmaceutical care perspective. The STEP programme and specialist rotations offsite at Kings and Queen Elizabeth Hospital built on this clinical capability and also provided a platform of exposure to different approaches to care and leadership.

With its ever-changing landscape I chose cancer care as my specialism. In oncology and haematology clinics and on the wards at both the London Clinic and Guys, I have experienced both opportunities and challenges in leading and managing for the purpose of obtaining the best possible outcomes for patients.

This experience, in both community and hospital practice across the NHS and private sectors, motivated me to cultivate my competencies further in the leadership realm. The NHS Leadership Academy’s Edward Jenner programme was the perfect pedestal from which to propel myself deeper into that domain, whilst traversing the path of PRINCE2 and Lean Six Sigma education, in the pursuit of optimal patient experience.

A revelation

It was at the Pharmacy Congress last year that I serendipitously happened across the Chief Pharmaceutical Officer’s Clinical Fellow Scheme. The programme, which provides early-career pharmacists the unique opportunity to spend a year working with senior pharmacy leaders in national healthcare organisations, instantly piqued my interest. Speaking to a then fellow revealed it offers an unparalleled experience and opportunity to develop a range of leadership and management skills as well as strategy and policy experience.

The scheme was established in 2015 on a background of momentum for clinical leadership training from think tanks like the King’s Fund and the Nuffield Trust. It is run as an apprenticeship with fellows hosted by national NHS and healthcare organisations for a year. Within the host organisation, the fellow leads on key projects that contribute to national healthcare priorities focussed on patient safety and medicines optimisation.

The ambiguous trail toward leadership that I was meandering down suddenly had a crystal-clear target. Little did I know that such a scheme existed, never mind that I had been subconsciously preparing myself for it all the while! I threw myself headfirst into my application.

Applying and succeeding

The Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management, who manage the programme on behalf of NHS England, ran an uncomplicated application process. Applicants were shortlisted for interview on the strength of their application and personal statements. Prior to interview candidates were invited to a host evening — here the 12 host organisations provided insight into the fellow’s role and by doing so enabled (though often added to the indecision of!) ranking of each organisation by preference. Interviews took place in central London with many panels operating at a time. There were plenty of poker faces among big characters and bellies full of butterflies.

With apprehension building day-after-day and jitters with every notification, the email I had been anticipating finally arrived — I had been awarded a place on the scheme and would be hosted by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). The wave of relief and excitement that washed over me was palpable. It was only at that point did I realise the strength of my appetite for a fellowship.

Darzi doctrine and the CQC

Within my position at CQC I will be a highly valued member of the Medicines Optimisation team, where I will assist the head of this team in the implementation of medicines optimisation strategy. In addition to making presentations to a variety of audiences and publishing reports on specific aspects of CQC’s work, I will shadow inspections and work as a specialist advisor drawing on my clinical knowledge and areas of expertise.

My enthusiasm for a fellowship at CQC stems from my curiosity for the development and implementation of strategy and policy within the healthcare ecosystem to assure quality of care. Ultimately, I want to develop a greater understanding of how the regulator can, in Darzi doctrine, aid the empowerment of clinicians to lead on the delivery of high quality care at the coalface.

With the 70th anniversary of the NHS, the momentum for a stronger role for clinical leadership to raise standards is huge. Fellowships like the Chief Pharmaceutical Officer’s catalyses this push at a personal level - I can’t wait to be immersed!

Louisa Conlon

About the author:

Louisa Conlon is a cancer services clinical pharmacist with extensive experience in a range of specialities in both the NHS and private healthcare settings. With a strong passion for leadership and management as well as systems and process optimisation, she is delighted to have been awarded a place on the Chief Pharmaceutical Officer’s Clinical Fellow Scheme for 2018/2019 and is looking forward to diving in head first.

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