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New podcast episode with Michael West on compassionate leadership

by Sarah Turner | May 23, 2024

The finale of series one of the Leadership and Culture in Healthcare podcast airs on 29 May, featuring insights from Professor Michael West CBE on nurturing cultures of high-quality and compassionate care in health services.

Michael, a senior visiting fellow at the King’s Fund and professor of organisational psychology at Lancaster University, and podcast host Matthew Winn, Chief Executive of Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust and of Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust, discuss the NHS staff survey and how staff engagement is the most important predictor of an organisation’s performance.

Matthew and Michael

Michael said: “It’s really hard to overestimate how important the NHS staff survey is. If I want to know how a trust will be performing in the future, probably the best measure I can look at is its measures of staff engagement, team working, inclusion and burn out today and if I want to ensure the trust is performing in two or three years’ time then those are the areas I have to focus on improving."

Michael and Matthew go on to discuss how supportive, compassionate leadership is the most important factor of influence levels of staff engagement and the correlation between compassionate leadership and improved patient outcomes.

Michael explains: “Leadership is not a cloak you put on when you come to work, it’s a way of being, it’s about authenticity, it’s about continually learning to be present with those we lead, having the humility to learn from each other, from different organisations.

“It’s about nurturing our capacity to empathise even though it’s really difficult at times but that’s what compassion is and sometimes it feels really hard when you want to help and you don’t know what to do. It’s about leaning into the difficult at times but to recognise also that being compassionate as a leader in the health service is the only way forward.

“It’s also about having the courage to be self-compassionate because the more we can practise self-compassion as leaders, we know that transmits out into how those we lead behave towards those they provide care for.”

The episode ends with a summary of lessons learnt from Matthew’s conversations with the series’ other 11 guests*, all of whom are NHS leaders with a history of developing positive cultures, as demonstrated by their organisation’s strong staff survey results, and those working to rebuild cultures in challenging circumstances.

Matthew said: “It’s been fascinating to hear the differing perspectives of these 11 healthcare leaders and it’s been encouraging to hear listeners have found the discussions thought provoking and inspiring too.

“So far, the podcast series has had more than 2,600 downloads and it’s been a real privilege to wrap up series one with the wisdom of Michael West.”

Series two of the podcast will launch later in June and feature discussions with national leaders from regulatory, patient safety and oversight organisations.

Leadership and Culture in Healthcare is available on Spotify and Apple podcasts.

For further information, please contact Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust’s Communications Team on 0300 555 6655 or email

Notes for editors

*Series 1 podcast guests included:

    • Jane Tomkinson OBE, Chief Executive of Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Acting Chief Executive of Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
    • Tracy Allen, Chief Executive of Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Foundation Trust
    • Neil Carr, Chief Executive of Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust
    • Dr Buki Adeyemo, Chief Executive of North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare Trust
    • Andrew Strevens, Chief Executive of Solent NHS Trust
    • Anita Pisani, Deputy Chief Executive of Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust
    • Dr Hal Spencer, Chief Executive of Chesterfield Royal Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
    • Graham Wareham, Chief Executive of Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust
    • Mairead McCormick, Chief Executive of Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust
    • Julian Emms, Chief Executive of Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
    • Dr Birju Bartoli, Northumberland Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

Matthew Winn has been leading Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust since 2007, which is rated Outstanding by CQC and has the best community trust staff survey results in the country. More information about the trust can be found here Since November 2023, Matthew has also led Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust, which is also rated Outstanding and has great staff survey outcomes. More information about the trust can be found here

Matthew has also held national roles including as NHS England’s national director of community health and currently advises on intermediate care.

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