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Evaluating clinical leadership: a case study

John Edmonstone (Centre for Health Planning and Management, University of Keele, Keele, UK)

Leadership in Health Services

ISSN: 1751-1879

Article publication date: 17 July 2009




The paper aims to describe an evaluation study of advanced leadership programmes run for clinical leaders in the National Health Service (NHS) in England.


This was a limited, post‐hoc study, strongly influenced by a “moving target” problem, which collected and analysed reaction and learning‐level data through e‐mail questionnaires, document analysis and semi‐structured interviews.


Significant underlying unchecked assumptions in relation to the programmes were made and were never realised in practice. There were split funding arrangements and lack of clarity over the purpose of the programmes. While there were organisational and individual benefits achieved the programmes only partly met their original objectives.

Research limitations/implications

The post‐hoc nature of the research study was a major limitation, together with the “bespoke” nature of programme delivery, This meant that the findings of the study were broad and general, rather than specific to each individual programme. Future evaluation studies would need to be planned with the programme design, rather than as an afterthought.

Practical implications

Robust project management arrangements are necessary for steering purposes in such complex leadership development programmes. A continuing diagnostic orientation is needed on the part of the programme provider. Programme titles matter – and create expectations. The contractual model potentially creates tensions between client(s) and provider.


Few evaluation studies of clinical leadership programmes have been conducted and reported. The case study offers a rich source of shared learning with regard to the complexity and challenges in this sphere.



Edmonstone, J. (2009), "Evaluating clinical leadership: a case study", Leadership in Health Services, Vol. 22 No. 3, pp. 210-224.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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