Crammer’s Corner: The NHS coaching and mentoring scheme


With unprecedented times related to COVID-19, there has been a lot of change and restructuring of the manner and pattern of working in general practice. In this article Dr Hana Patel, an established NHS coach and mentor, describes both schemes and how to access them during and after attaining your completion of certificate of training (CCT).

The NHS Leadership Academy was moved to NHS England and NHS Improvement on 1 April 2019, with a view to provide more focused support for individuals within the NHS, and to develop leadership skills and behaviours required to support the NHS Long Term plan.

The NHS Long Term plan is a document drawn up in response to the changing face of health and social care, taking account of the needs of the population. It aims to ensure that the NHS will be fit and suitable for patients and staff over the next 10 years.

Leadership development is intended to aid this at all levels. The NHS Leadership Academy is a resource for not only current GP trainees and qualified GPs, but for people of all backgrounds and experiences across health and care.

Coaching and Leadership

Coaching is a recognised tool used in businesses and organisations to help employees develop skills and knowledge and maximise their potential. It is used to assist employees in achieving leadership skills. Within the NHS, coaching is perceived to be one of the most effective development tools that a senior leader in the NHS can access. Coaching can be carried out in a group setting, with a number of individuals who share the same outcomes or goals. However, there is evidence that a one-to-one bespoke approach can lead to more lasting change.

The NHS Leadership academy website has details on how NHS employees can access both coaching and mentoring services in their area, usually by completing an online form. The service then matches a coach with the employee. While it can be helpful for the coach to be from a similar background to the employee, studies have found that this is not a barrier to a successful coaching experience. As well as unlocking individual potential, coaching can help increase morale, motivation and enthusiasm while reducing levels of stress. Coaching can also improve self-confidence by encouraging a more proactive approach to addressing issues and making decisions.

There are specific leadership development programmes available through the NHS Leadership Academy for doctors, such as the ‘Mary Seacole programme’ and the ‘Edward Jenner programme’. This is in response to the General Medical Council (GMC’s) recognition that doctors must lead using their power and influence to manage resources as leaders of systems of care.

Organisational management and leadership are capabilities that GP trainees must demonstrate according to the RCGP curriculum. The RCGP has developed a programme called ‘Moving into Management’ for those new to management and leadership and is something for GP trainees and newly qualified GPs to consider. Fellowships offered by Health Education England and the Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management can also enable newly qualified GPs to enhance their clinical, educational and leadership potential.

What is mentoring?

Mentoring involves forming a relationship with the mentee to build confidence and support for the mentee in their role. Mentoring is different from coaching as it is carried out over a longer period of time, with the mentee setting goals. Such goals may involve career development, expanding knowledge and networks, exploring strengths and development needs, and handling difficult relationships.

As with coaching, NHS England has developed mentoring as a development and support service for staff and to help employees reach their full potential and ultimately improve outcomes for all patients.

Mentoring is used in businesses and organisations to develop the careers of employees, retain staff and increase productivity. 

Dr Hana Patel

References and further information

  NHS England (2014) ‘A Guide to Mentoring’ document. Available at: (accessed 22 June 2020).
Google Scholar
  NHS England Leadership Academy. Coaching for inclusion programme. Available at: (accessed 22 June 2020).
Google Scholar
  NHS (2019) The NHS ‘Long Term Plan’. Available at: (accessed 22 June 2020).
Google Scholar
  RCGP. First5. Available at: (accessed 10 March 2020).

Conclusion: Final thoughts The NHS Leadership Academy delivers two coaching and mentoring programmes. The ‘Return to Work Mentoring Programme’ is suitable for NHS employees who have been away from work for at least 8 weeks, for example owing to maternity leave, sick leave or carers leave. This programme can help address concerns employees may have, for example about organisational change since they were last at work, new career development opportunities and practical concerns such as breast feeding. The
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