From education to employment

Better Managers key to boosting patient outcomes and education results

people sat around a room

Spending more on management in the public sector would mean people get better healthcare and education.

The Social Market Foundation and Chartered Management Institute (CMI) have partnered to identify the best route to achieving improved results from the UK’s public services, focusing on the potential benefits of better management practices across the NHS, in education, and in local government.

In a briefing out today, the SMF, a cross-party think-tank, said politicians who want to deliver better services and better value for taxpayers’ money should have the courage to make the case for better management and managers in the public sector.

Evidence from around the world shows that countries with more highly-trained public sector managers also have better public services, the Social Market Foundation said. Training such as MBAs for health managers helped deliver lower mortality and infection rates and shorter waiting times for treatment. Another study also linked a higher proportion of managers to staff to better patient outcomes and lower infection rates.

The review noted that productivity in the public sector grew by just 4% between 1997 and 2018, compared to a 27% increase across the wider economy in that time. The wider productivity figure is considered to be low to the point of being a perpetual drag on the UK growth prospects, pointing to the public sector productivity lag as being at a point of crisis.

Richard Hyde, Senior Researcher at the Social Market Foundation, said:

Our public services have been struggling to deliver for over two decades now – with productivity almost flatlining.

In the quest for better health and education services and local government, improving leadership and management will be a key piece of the solution. Across the UK and the world, highly-trained public sector managers are helping deliver better public service performance, offering examples of the gains the UK could benefit from if there was a strong focus on management quality.

Better public services are possible – but we need politicians to make the case for measures that make a tangible difference such as investing in better management.

Anthony Painter, Policy Director at the Chartered Management Institute, said:

Too often we hear political commentary that denigrates the role of highly-skilled managers in achieving the high quality public services we all expect. And yet the evidence suggests this needs to be dialled down in favour of objective, evidence-based assessment of what professional management can achieve.

Acute demand pressures and fiscal constraint mean that productivity growth and service innovation have to be a big part of the picture for the next decade. Highly effective management capabilities in public services are central if we are to evade a deepening sense of crisis in the 2020s.

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