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Failures of Leadership: The NHS


A collage of 3 men and 2 women
Dr Stephen Brearey (top) and the leaders who failed to lead over muderous nurse Lucy Letby

Failures of Leadership

Like everyone else, I have been deeply affected by the story of NHS nurse Lucy Letby and her murderous acts.


Much will be written on Letby elsewhere and I’ll leave that for others. However, what this made me think about was the monumental failure of leadership from people who should have done better.


Leadership failed when Dr Stephen Brearey described, after the death of yet another baby, calling Duty Executive Karen Rees to demand Letby be taken off duty.


She refused.


Dr Brearey courageously challenged her decision – she was effectively rejecting the collective opinion of 7 Consultant Paediatricians. Asked if she would take responsibility for anything that might happen to other babies the next day. Ms Rees replied "yes".


Another baby died.


The Hospital Leadership

❌ Failed to listen to its people

❌ Refused to take Letby off duty when Stephen Brearey demanded

❌ Instead, demanding doctors write an apology letter to Letby

❌ Waited 3-months to meet Dr Brearey and listen to his concerns

❌ Treated Dr Brearey and colleagues with as much suspicion as Lucy Letby


And where was #HR in all of this?


We’re talking about the sudden and unexpected deaths of babies here.


Here’s a thought:

✅ How about we hire leaders that already know they should listen to their people?

✅ Have HR departments that conduct investigations fearlessly, thoroughly and expeditiously?


Heads won’t roll, but sadly, I suspect doors will continue to revolve.


Obviously, there is only 1 person that is fully responsible for the murders and attempted murders of all those babies.


But leadership - or the failure of it - created a culture that allowed Letby’s murderous behaviour to continue for far too long.


Will they be sacked? Will the systemic failures of leadership within our rotten healthcare system be addressed?


The Health Secretary has announced a non-statutory inquiry; we’ve again been assured lessons will be learnt.


This is not good enough. I believe a Judge-led, STATUTORY inquiry is required, compelling persons to give evidence under oath.


Grieving parents deserve more than mere lip service from Government ministers.


The public deserve more than this from NHS leadership.


We all deserve to work in environments that foster trust and which calls poor leadership out when they have been “found out” as these arrogant leaders surely have.


No doubt, someone will say “lessons have been learned” - how about we hire some managers with some backbone, with a modicum of decency, and who will lead fearlessly.


Podcast: Heroes & Villains 🦹‍♀️ - a number of people collaborated with me during lockdown to call out some poor behaviours – I’m half minded to start again.

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