Warriors, White Spaces and Navigating Uncertainty…

Capture.JPGAs I come to the end of a twelve year tenure as Director of Allied Health Professionals (AHP’s) in NHS Lothian I am reflective and also rejoice in what we as AHP’s have delivered in that time.

In the past twelve years I have seen four different Governments, three AHP strategies, had two job titles but only one resolute conviction to advocate for Allied Health Professionals in Scotland and empower and enable the future generation of leaders in our teams.


Navigating change across boundaries and with multiple key stakeholders is a skill and often one of the most challenging aspects of a leadership role. The current operating environment across public services in Scotland and indeed throughout the United Kingdom is well articulated in the following figure:

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Harvard Business Review: https://tinyurl.com/nhw3hja

VUCA was first described many years ago and stemmed from a military academy concept. It is well documented and applied to many different industries globally. This is an interesting way to frame why we currently see the public service reform agenda (Christie 2011) in Scotland progress slowly. To empower and enable AHP’s and develop the leadership skills to deliver in this environment, it first needs to be shared. As leaders within the system we also have to help people make sense of some of the real issues we face daily in trying to deliver transformation in this environment.


Complexity does not have to mean complicated! The ability to navigate change in systems requires leaders to be open to new ideas and also skilled in the art of collaboration. In 2018 Audit Scotland published their review of Health & Social Care implementation and identified key attributes demonstrated in progressive partnerships.  https://tinyurl.com/y4hvuc9u

Screenshot 2019-10-20 at 10.49.25

As AHP’s we are and have been perfectly positioned to take advantage of the turmoil and create new ways of working, transforming how our population self manage and receive different more person centred services.

With all transformation and disruption new opportunities emerge.  Working closely with front-line staff across Health, Education and Social Care, empowering them to seize these opportunities and jump into the white spaces.  It is clear to me that we have a vibrant capable workforce, that demonstrate many of the skills outlined above and offer a diverse perceptive in this landscape.


Building leadership capacity and the ability to mange complex change has been a strong driver in what we have delivered over the past decade in Scotland. Training AHP’s across all disciplines in the Quality Improvement model and allowing small seeds of change to grow and develop across our professions. This has created the conditions to foster courage and push the boundaries across so many of our strategic work programmes. Building emergence and engaging with diverse stakeholders has enabled the growth of our Digital NMAHP leaders (@debbieprovanRD @Nic_RD_AHP) Children and Young peoples programme (@NatleadAHPCYP) and also the Dementia work streams (@elaineahpm) just to name a few!

The Allied Health Professions in Scotland are well placed to continue building a ‘new way’ and offering a refreshing, relationships based approach that allows compassionate leadership to flourish and real change to be delivered.

My mantra has always been “Permission to think differently” to strongly encourage the road less travelled and to engage with your inner ‘AHP Warrior” to ensure that our collective voices are heard and change can be influenced at the highest levels.

In a recent King’s Fund blog by Michael West & Suzie Bailey (2019) (https://tinyurl.com/y2otpokt) the concept of compassionate leadership and the myths are explored. This resonates with the core capabilities I have witnessed from the AHP’s I have engaged with in Scotland. Courage, ability to challenge and the pursuit of solutions through transformation are very evident in our system.

Although I am moving on I will continue to advocate strongly for the contribution AHP”s have to play across public service.  I leave you with one thought……

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You will grow from strength to strength and I look forward to watching what the next generation of ‘AHP Warriors’ deliver in our public service reform agenda.

Over and out…………October 2019

Dr Lynne Douglas (@LynneAHPD)

AHP Director


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