MPs from all parties have urged the government to change the law to enable more allied health professionals (AHPs) to take on NHS leadership roles.
A cross-party group of MPs tabled a motion in Parliament today, calling on the government to broaden the professional diversity of senior NHS staff by removing an ‘unnecessary’ legal restriction.
Under current legislation, some senior level posts within NHS trust hospitals are not available to a wide group of medical professions, as medical director roles are limited to doctors and only nurses can apply for nursing director roles.
The motion, proposed by Lib Dem MP Norman Lamb, stated that these restrictions were ‘outdated’, hampered creative thinking and ‘excluded over 150,000 allied health professionals from these leadership roles.’
CSP chief executive Karen Middleton said: ‘It is an established fact that throughout all sectors and industries, the most successful boards are those with the greatest diversity.
‘The NHS needs to do everything it can to ensure its boards access the widest talent possible and limiting the executive clinical roles to only two professions is outdated and exclusive, when we should be lookingto simply recruit the very best clinicians to these senior positions.’
AHPs ‘banned’ by an antiquated law
The Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Act 2003 specifies that medical and nursing board directors must have medical or nursing qualifications.
Mr Lamb told Parliament: ‘Not many people will be aware that in many hospitals up and down the land today, skilled professionals who are not doctors or nurses, known as allied health professionals, are effectively banned from being executive clinical directors on trust boards.
‘If we want more creative thinking, and the voices of physios, OTs, radiographers and many other therapists to be heard in NHS boardrooms, then we need a law change. The current rules are holding us back.’
Removing restrictions will benefit patients
The motion backed the views of the Allied Health Professions Federation (AHPF), which includes CSP among its members, by stating that an increase in the professional diversity of hospital leaders could help to boost multidisciplinary working, reduce pressure on emergency departments and improve patient outcomes.
AHPF chair Parmjit Dhanda said: ‘We're delighted that MPs have laid this motion before the House today and recognised the importance of AHPs in senior NHS roles.
‘It is a reminder that our health service values all of its workforce. Doctors and nurses are crucial, but diversity of skills delivers better services.
‘This motion reminds us all of the benefits that could be gained if a wider group of skilled professionals were allowed to take up medical and/or nursing director roles at foundation trusts. But it does require the lifting of a legal restriction by the government.’
Today’s motion, which received support from Labour, Conservative and Independent Group MPs, follows the recent publication of an NHS Improvement guide that aims to help NHS organisations increase the professional diversity of their senior staff.
Clinical leadership – a framework for action, highlights how existing organisational structures can restrict the leadership prospects of AHPs, such as physiotherapists, and suggests how to increase opportunities for them to contribute their skills at strategic levels.
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