Encouraging Dietitians into Clinical Leadership

Last modified on 31/01/2019

Najia Qureshi is Head of Education and Professional Development at the BDA. 

The Clinical Leadership framework published yesterday by NHSI sets out an exciting ambition to grow the role of dietitians and other AHPs in senior leadership in the NHS. Many dietitians tell us that they feel there are barriers to expanding their roles.

We know that there are huge benefits to having a wide range of professional expertise and experience in senior management roles. AHPs have a unique perspective, and as the case studies included alongside the framework make clear, can offer AHP solutions to system-wide challenges that might otherwise not be considered.

More to be done

The framework probably needs to provide more detail on how diversity (other than professional diversity) will be addressed, as the framework does not cover this in detail. We know that many professions do not represent the population as a whole particularly well, and dietitians are no exception.

It will also be important for NHSI to pay particular attention to the challenges faced by the smaller professions, which make it more difficult for them to take opportunities to develop as leaders. If you are a part of a small team, it is harder to free up time for development and training that might be needed, compared to larger teams where work can be more easily spread. We know from what our members tell us that this is a particular challenge for dietitians.

Taking opportunities

We know there are lots of dietitians who want to move into more senior roles, but that they face barriers to doing so. This is recognised in the framework, which calls on senior leaders to identify the issues that are stopping people from progressing and taking issue to resolve them. We would encourage you to actively highlight such blockages as you find them both to us and to NHSI. That might be a lack of opportunities, overly restrictive job requirements, excessive clinical commitments, or a lack of time for development and training.

For this framework to lead to change, it will also rely on dietitians and other AHPs to push themselves forward for these roles. If this framework can help open the doors to these roles, we have to make sure we are ready to walk through them.

Next steps

Other parts of the UK, such as Wales, already have good systems in place to ensure that AHPs are involved in senior decision making, with specific Directors of Therapies and Healthcare Science (DoTHS) in every health board in Wales. Hopefully there is plenty England can learn from their experience.

The BDA will continue to support the development of professional leadership and advance practice roles, including consultant practitioners, many of whom will be well placed to take on leadership roles. The Allied Health Profession Federation has also made expanding leadership opportunities a priority, and will bring together all the AHP bodies, including the BDA, to campaign on this issue.