Doctors are avoiding management roles, says Hunt

Authors: Abi Rimmer 

Publication date:  27 Jan 2017

Doctors are unwilling to take on management roles because of the responsibility that comes with them, England’s health secretary has said.

Speaking at a Westminster Health Conference in London on Thursday 26 January, Jeremy Hunt responded to a question about whether chief executives of NHS trusts should be held more accountable when things went wrong.

He replied, “I think managers have a very high degree of accountability, and in fact I would say in some ways the challenge is the opposite.

“It’s difficult sometimes to persuade doctors and nurses to go into management because of that degree of accountability. They think, “I’m responsible for a billion pound organisation, 6000 staff, and I may not be able to control absolutely everything that is happening in every corner of that organisation, and I sure as hell am going to get the blame if something goes wrong.”

Hunt said that there was a need to find a better way to encourage more doctors to go into management. “We have fantastic people like David Dalton [chief executive of Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust and Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust] and Andrew Morris [chief executive of Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust], inspirational leaders who aren’t doctors, but compared with many other countries like Canada and Sweden we don’t get enough doctors doing that,” he said.

In December Hunt announced a new fast track programme designed to encourage doctors into senior management roles.[1] At the time, he said that he wanted to increase the numbers of clinicians in NHS chief executive and management roles. “What is striking when you look at the pool of potential NHS leaders of the future is just how few have a clinical background,” he said. “We should today ask whether the NHS made a historic mistake in the 1980s by deliberately creating a manager class who were not clinicians, rather than making more effort to nurture and develop the management skills of those who are.”


  1. Iacobucci G. Hunt lures doctors into management roles with promise of training at Yale. BMJ  2016;355:i6486. [Link] . [Link]   [Link] .

Abi Rimmer BMJ Careers

Cite this as BMJ Careers ; doi: