A View from the Top
Richard McKenzie

Richard McKenzie is Chief Executive at Christchurch Group.

Reflections on the last decade

The biggest change for me has been the systematic dismantling of services with a complete lack of a ‘plan B’. This is no fault of our colleagues in local authorities and the NHS, but in my view, the leadership in the corridors of power has lacked transparency, direction and vision, leaving the most vulnerable exposed.

Integrated funding has been talked about for years and, apart from a few pockets, has not happened as we continue to follow a ‘silo’ culture around health and social care budgets, the impact of which is felt by the sick and their families.

Projections for the next decade

A strong NHS benefits local authorities and also organisations such as my own, whereby individuals can be funded appropriately to meet their clinical needs. Therefore, the picture is somewhat blurred currently. However, should integrated funding become a reality and could health and social care join up more effectively, then the outlook would improve for patients and their families.

It will still be tough. Changing demographics and longer life expectancies will continue to add to the pressures and there is a likelihood that families will need to support loved ones more effectively. But at least appropriate aftercare would be in place and take some of the strain off services and carers alike.

As far as the Christchurch Group is concerned, we will continue to look for new opportunities, whether that is offering rehabilitation for new clinical pathways, opening more services or increasing our geographical coverage. We’re looking forward to the challenges ahead.

Insight

I have worked in private healthcare organisations for 25 years in business development and at chief operating officer and chief executive level. I am currently Chief Executive of the Christchurch Group, which provides highly-compliant neuro-rehabilitation services across England. We specialise in all areas of complex care, offering different services at different locations.

Influences

Former Nottingham Forest manager, Brian Clough had a big influence on my life and I try to adopt a number of his principles, from when he managed the club. These include: focusing on people’s strengths and not their weaknesses to create a better team; recognising potential; ensuring people have recovery time; giving autonomy; and being slightly unorthodox, but in a stabilising way. Brian always saw the opportunities and joined everything up. He led the club in winning the European Cup twice on these merits, so they must have some basis.

In a previous role, I learnt the relationship between management and leadership. At the top of the organisation, you need to be a leader with a strong commercial mind, able to seek out and exploit opportunity. Within services, it is leadership that will make them Outstanding. You need good leaders at all levels of a business.

Lessons

Many years ago, during a training session, someone said ‘valued staff value patients’. Many of my services have been run on those four words, because they reflect a process of transference and it is commercially sound to do so. Your service users are your best marketeers.

Someone also told me to deal with today’s problems today and not over bother yourself with tomorrow’s.

Advice

Never, ever make promises – you may not be able to keep them. Listen to and respect your workforce, they have lots of good ideas. Be present at your services.

Do not abdicate or procrastinate, make decisions in a timely manner, however tricky it may be; sometimes you may get it wrong, don’t worry about it.

Look at potential in all levels of your organisation as part of succession planning. Be able to adapt your organisation to market forces – do not stick your head in the sand when there is a blip, because it may be a trend.

Be the same person every day, whatever is going on inside you and don’t transfer your anxieties. Have a good number two. Don’t let the job consume you and make sure you have a life outside of work.

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