A crisis of moral leadership?

Image of Morecambe PierDuring a BBC interview about events at Morecambe Bay Hospitals Professor John Ashton – then the newly elected President of the Faculty of Public Health – said public services were facing a failure of moral leadership. His comment ignited a welcome debate about what moral leadership in public services looks like.

In an article for HSJ based on arguments in my book, Dr Mike Roddis described some of the moral challenges that came to his attention in work with NHS leaders.

The ensuing HSJ twitchat (#HSJLeaders) revealed growing awareness of the moral capabilities needed to manage medicine. One of these moral capabilities is what I have called ‘inquisitorial propriety’. This is the skilful moral behaviour that underpins authoritative and impartial investigation of serious incidents and safety concerns, something that has been a matter of contention for several years in the Morecambe Bay case.

Babies Alex Davey-Brady and Joshua Titcombe died in Furness General Hospital in 2008. Their parents campaigned for years before the NHS finally appointed Dr Bill Kirkup early in 2013 to lead a fresh inquiry into these deaths and the surrounding circumstances. If earlier responses to these awful events had been based on better understanding of what is needed to accomplish ‘moral repair’ after harm, there would have been less distress for everyone concerned.

I provide masterclasses and consult with organisations to help people practise moral leadership, including after harm. Contact me to find out more.

Image: Morecambe Pier by Jenny Mackness via flickr CC: by 2,0