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NHS Leadership Academy

"Her quick wit and likeability go hand in hand with intelligence and experience. There’s not much she hasn't done. Behind that down to earth persona, there’s a very smart cookie. What’s not to like?"

“The Leadership Academy is a huge operation, which has already supported and developed thousands of people within the NHS. Even with the size and scale of the Academy, Oonagh has made an indelible impression.

We joined the Academy’s faculty around the same time, working together to develop, deliver and facilitate its programmes. When I stepped up to become Director, Oonagh was an obvious choice to take a leading role in two of the programmes: she’s an extremely reliable facilitator – ideal for team building, conflict resolution, leadership development and more.

Our work at the academy is based around the idea that to develop the leader, we have to develop the individual. Even though the goal is to give people more self-confidence, the process involves a lot of humility. And that’s where Oonagh’s approach is invaluable.

As a facilitator her warmth and humour are incredibly powerful, making her disarming and friendly, while giving her a tool for challenging people. But it’s completely genuine, and makes her a real pleasure to work with.

The faculty got to know each other very well, with very supportive and robust relationships – so it’s no surprise to me that Oonagh is well liked in the group. Her quick wit and likeability go hand in hand with intelligence and experience. There’s not much she hasn’t done. Behind that down to earth persona, there’s a very smart cookie. What’s not to like?”

Dr Nicholas Bradbury,
Programme Director

The project


Residential Training Programme
Delivered across three four-day sessions
Working as part of an Academy supporting tens of thousands of NHS staff
Down to Earth worked to deliver the Directors’ Programme and the Nye Bevan Aspiring Directors’ programme

The aim

The NHS Leadership Academy was designed to professionalise leadership across the NHS. Guided by the principles and values of the NHS Constitution, this suite of programmes help leaders recognise the importance of leadership to patients, service users, carers and staff; set and support some common standards of leadership practice, and provide a consistent approach to leadership and development programmes to leaders as they progress in their careers.

To ensure the academy could achieve these ambitions, it had a rigorous recruitment process for appointing faculty with expertise in developing leaders through developing self-aware, emotionally intelligent, courageous, values and purpose led human beings.

The work

Working on both the Directors’ Programme and the award-winning Nye Bevan Aspiring Directors’ programme, I created a safe, challenging and stretching learning environment for NHS Leaders. This included providing feedback, facilitating group dynamics, designing and facilitating learning interventions relevant to specific group needs (like Systems leadership, leadership learning, group dynamics) and working with colleagues to create the whole group “container”.

The outcome

We all have a stake in the NHS – and rightly so. It is an enormously complex system that provides healthcare and, in the words of the NHS Constitution: “it touches our lives at times of basic human need, when care and compassion are what matter most”.

In my time working with the Academy, I have worked or connected with hundreds of NHS Leaders. I have seen them grappling with the personal and organisational challenges of leadership in an organisation with a vast impact, socially and politically. Without fail, they have stepped up to the plate and engaged with the programmes – wholeheartedly and intelligently – to lead in the best way they can.

Hear from some of our other clients:

“…she’s completely authentic, totally honest and unafraid to share her view, even when it’s at odds with yours. That’s exactly what I need and look for. I’d use her again in a heartbeat.”

Diageo Women’s Virtual Leadership Programme

Working on a development programme without the face-to-face engagement is far from a typical project for Down to Earth. Yet this Virtual Leadership Programme was an opportunity to take an active role in the equality and diversity agenda, supporting the development of more than 700 women within one of the world’s leading drinks brands.

“…it’s not just the depth of knowledge that makes the difference. She also really gets people – with the insight to connect and bring them through the process.”

BBC Worldwide Global Leadership Development

Working with a large group of senior managers around the world to turn them into better leaders is one thing. Fostering a sense of community in that group is quite another. Designing and delivering a programme with BBC Worldwide, we laid the groundwork for willing collaboration, open communication and even friendship and trust.

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