HCL Issue 10 - Page 33

33 Women leaders in healthcare: Dr Claire Fuller The head of Surrey Heartlands integrated care system talks to Valeria Fiore about the importance of building relationships and increasing the number of women at the top is our mechanism for removing unwarranted variation from the system and making sure care across Surrey Heartlands is standardised. It’s very much about bringing together change methodology and making sure we have evaluation, research and innovation embedded in everything we do. When our previous senior responsible officer, Julia Ross, left, I applied for the role. What career challenges have you faced along the way? I have two sons and I have always enjoyed my work improving care, but the challenge has been finding ways of working that fit around the demands of a young family. Also, working towards integration is really hard and will only be successful if you have strong relationships between organisations and individuals. Creating those relationships takes a lot of time but unless you invest that time you can’t progress and implement change. Our journey from STP to ICS involved talking about how we could maximise improvements in care for the whole population. System working is all about relationships. In my role, I have no hierarchical power and as an ICS we are not a statutory organisation; change can only happen through influence and persuasion. Q r Claire Fuller worked as a GP in Surrey for over 20 years. In 2013, her drive to deliver better patient care to a wider population landed her the job of clinical chair for Surrey Downs CCG. She maintained this role for four years until she in April 2017 became senior responsible officer for what was then Surrey Heartlands sustainability and transformation partnership (STP), taking over from Julia Ross. In June 2017, the STP became Surrey Heartlands integrated care system (ICS). Today, Dr Fuller’s expertise helps guide and reform care for more than 850,000 people. D How did you become an ICS lead? When the STP came about I created the Surrey Heartlands Clinical Academy which launched in May 2017 and is our clinical leadership model. The academy Q System working is all about relationships: change can only happen through infl uence and persuasion What are the qualities of a good leader? The most important thing, because I have no hierarchical power, is to build relationships, be able to listen and communicate effectively. Q Which achievements are you most proud of in your career? I am proud of my drive to get into a leadership role, as opposed to remaining a GP. My ambition has always been to create a health and care system that doesn’t need me or people like me to steer patients to the best care. The thing that makes me happiest is when I hear of people in our health and care system saying ‘this happened, and Q I got brilliant care, and it has worked really well’. I am also proud of the various things we have achieved in Surrey Heartlands; the quality of care, the improvements we have delivered and the work of our clinical academy. One of the other things I am really proud of is the cultural shift that has happened here. Leaders are talking and thinking as a system, rather than in organisational terms and we now have system ambitions and savings. What advice would you give other women who want to step into leadership roles? Just do it. If somebody offers you a job, take it. And never apologise for having a family. When I was a CCG chair we would sometimes have evening meetings. I would say ‘I can’t make that meeting’, but I would never say I couldn’t make it because of my children. Also, always prioritise important family events, such as school assemblies, sports days and parents evening. Meetings can be rescheduled, or deputies sent. Q What can the NHS do to encourage more women to take on senior roles? There is definitely more to be done about flexible working. I was able to take leadership roles because I was given flexibility when my children were younger. When I was in my CCG role, our board was largely white and male. To encourage greater diversity, we looked at the way we recruited our governing body members. There are things you can do when constructing job descriptions and job specifications to make women more likely to apply. Women often need more encouragement to apply, so I think women in senior roles should act as mentors to encourage other women to put themselves forward. Q More online For the latest interviews, visit healthcareleadernews.com Healthcare Leader 2019 Issue 10