National first as a scheme to produce NHS future leaders launches in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent

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A national scheme to train the NHS leaders of the future is to be officially launched in Stoke-on-Trent next week. 

The launch event is being hosted by Together We’re Better, the partnership of NHS and local government organisations alongside independent and voluntary sector groups, that are working together to transform local health and care services across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent. The event will welcome the 16 selected candidates from across the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent system, who were successful in their applications to take part in this innovative new programme.

Together We’re Better will run the programme, developed by the NHS Leadership Academy, as a national pilot. The keynote speaker at the launch will be Andrew Foster, Head of Talent at the NHS Leadership Academy. 

The two-year programme has been developed to nurture the leadership talent that already exists within the workforce. It is aimed at staff who already have practical experience, excellent knowledge of staff and systems, and who understand that positive outcomes for the patient are the priority. 

They will gain practical leadership experience in a range of roles and settings, alongside strategic experience through assignments and projects. They’ll also work with a career coach to design a bespoke development plan that supports them.

The scheme targets middle level clinical or non-clinical leaders with the potential and aspiration to progress into a senior executive role in health and care.

Sharon Black is a Senior Counsellor and Interpersonal Psychotherapy Team Leader working for North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare NHS Trust. She is based within the Improved Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) consortium, attached to North Staffs Mind where she has worked for seven years.

Sharon said, “I’ve had an unusual career path, from my first job working in residential children's services to working for MENCAP, helping families with disabled children, working as a barmaid whilst at university, to leading teams in the mental health services.

“I have faced inequalities, both within my personal and professional life, first for being a black lady, secondly for my hidden disability of dyslexia where I often find my intelligence questioned. I learn much better from practical experience than through academic learning, so the High Potential Scheme is a great opportunity, for me.

“My background and career journey is not the typical root into senior NHS leadership, but has laid a strong foundation for my development.  This leaves me now in a position where I want to push myself and see what I can achieve and the High Potential Scheme seems ideal for that.

“I’m really driven by wanting to fight the inequalities across the NHS. I want an NHS where people can get as far as possible, regardless of things which may have held them back in the past.  One of my inspirations is watching the engagement of my teenage son, who has such diverse friendships. Inclusion is one of my passions; I want to help make the NHS fit for the next generation, for the future of our diverse communities.”

Simon Whitehouse, Director of Together We’re Better, said: “It is a real accolade for Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent that the NHS Leadership Academy has selected us as their first partner from all the STPs across the country for the launch of this important new programme.

“Of all the challenges faced by the NHS, the workforce is probably the greatest. We want to train and develop people to be the best that they possibly can be, regardless of their background.

“We have sought out those we think best fit the profile and have the potential to become inspiring leaders, with 16 participants signed up for this pilot, which is of national significance, with STPs across the country looking at the progress we are making.”

More information about the High Potential Scheme, including how to apply is available on Together We’re Better’s website at