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Publication date: 13 July 2022

Rangani Handagala, Buddhike Sri Harsha Indrasena, Prakash Subedi, Mohammed Shihaam Nizam and Jill Aylott

The purpose of this paper is to report on the dynamics of “identity leadership” with a quality improvement project undertaken by an International Medical Graduate (IMG) from Sri…



The purpose of this paper is to report on the dynamics of “identity leadership” with a quality improvement project undertaken by an International Medical Graduate (IMG) from Sri Lanka, on a two year Medical Training Initiative (MTI) placement in the National Health Service (NHS) [Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AoMRC), 2017]. A combined MTI rotation with an integrated Fellowship in Quality Improvement (Subedi et al., 2019) provided the driver to implement the HEART score (HS) in an NHS Emergency Department (ED) in the UK. The project was undertaken across ED, Acute Medicine and Cardiology at the hospital, with stakeholders emphasizing different and conflicting priorities to improve the pathway for chest pain patients.


A social identity approach to leadership provided a framework to understand the insider/outsider approach to leadership which helped RH to negotiate and navigate the conflicting priorities from each departments’ perspective. A staff survey tool was undertaken to identify reasons for the lack of implementation of a clinical protocol for chest pain patients, specifically with reference to the use of the HS. A consensus was reached to develop and implement the pathway for multi-disciplinary use of the HS and a quality improvement methodology (with the use of plan do study act (PDSA) cycles) was used over a period of nine months.


The results demonstrated significant improvements in the reduction (60%) of waiting time by chronic chest pain patients in the ED. The use of the HS as a stratified risk assessment tool resulted in a more efficient and safe way to manage patients. There are specific leadership challenges faced by an MTI doctor when they arrive in the NHS, as the MTI doctor is considered an outsider to the NHS, with reduced influence. Drawing upon the Social Identity Theory of Leadership, NHS Trusts can introduce inclusion strategies to enable greater alignment in social identity with doctors from overseas.

Research limitations/implications

More than one third of doctors (40%) in the English NHS are IMGs and identify as black and minority ethnic (GMC, 2019a) a trend that sees no sign of abating as the NHS continues its international medical workforce recruitment strategy for its survival (NHS England, 2019; Beech et al., 2019). IMGs can provide significant value to improving the NHS using skills developed from their own health-care system. This paper recommends a need for reciprocal learning from low to medium income countries by UK doctors to encourage the development of an inclusive global medical social identity.


This quality improvement research combined with identity leadership provides new insights into how overseas doctors can successfully lead sustainable improvement across different departments within one hospital in the NHS.


Leadership in Health Services, vol. 37 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1751-1879


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