What is a Darzi fellowship?
The fellowship has been available in London for eight years but was expanded in 2017 to Kent, Surrey and Sussex, where I’m based. It’s a one-year programme that allows healthcare professionals at a transition point in their career (for instance, bands 7-8a) to work on a project aimed at increasing system leadership and management skills.
Why did you apply?
As operational team lead physiotherapist at Horsham Hospital’s musculoskeletal outpatients department, I’ve been interested in moving beyond my clinical role to explore leadership and management opportunities. The Darzi fellowship arose at an opportune moment at the start of 2017 so I applied. I was successful and very happy that my employers were able to support the secondment. My project began last May, so I am just over half-way through on a full-time basis.
What does it involve?
There are three elements. Academically, we’re working towards a postgraduate certificate in healthcare leadership from London South Bank University. We also undertake a designated project under the guidance of an organisational sponsor. Third, we work on how our projects align to national policies, such as the Five Year Forward View and sustainability and transformation plans, as well as on our systems thinking and understanding. I’m working with Health Education England in Kent, Surrey and Sussex on initiatives to improve the physical health of people with serious mental illness. My role is to communicate with staff who will be delivering this package, discover training and education opportunities and see how we can help them make it work in practice, fitting it into an already crowded workload.
Who’s on the course?
There are 26 fellows, including doctors, paramedics, pharmacists, a pathologist, a midwife and myself. We meet on a regular basis for university workshops and action learning sessions as well as a variety of other events. It’s an excellent mix of people in terms of backgrounds and experience. It has been really interesting being involved in the development of the group – we learn so much from each other.
What have you learned?
I’d say half of what we’ve learned is about the healthcare system and half is learning about ourselves and how we interact with that system. We’ve done a lot of work on our own leadership and communication styles, and I’ve found that invaluable. Individual coaching has also been a real help. It has also given me a chance to step out of my clinical comfort zone. I’ve enjoyed the wider view and the networking involved in that. I have produced project documents and recently completed a more in-depth report. I wouldn’t necessarily have got that opportunity without being able to step away from a clinically-oriented environment. As a fellow, you’re assimilating vastly different types of information and knowledge in different ways and for a variety of purposes – all vital skills when taking on leadership roles and responsibilities.
Would you recommend the scheme to other physiotherapists?
Absolutely. Opportunities like this are rare and I’d encourage anyone who is curious about leadership in the wider NHS to apply. Physiotherapists are creative, energetic people with a unique set of skills. I’d love to see the profession branching out to far wider areas of healthcare.
How will you use the experience?
I’ll be looking to use these skills in a variety of ways with my organisation once the fellowship ends. I can’t wait to start using them in a substantive role.
- Stuart Yeomans is a Darzi fellow in clinical leadership, based at Sussex Partnership NHS Trust
Stuart Yeomans is a Darzi fellow in clinical leadership, based at Sussex Partnership NHS Trust