The introduction of changes to the UK National Health Service from the 1980s onwards, coupled with recognition that successful improvement to health and health services places greater pressure on developing good inter-personal and inter-organisational relationships, underlines the need for greater leadership of health services in the future. Argues that insufficient attention has been paid to the development of external leadership, the growing importance of which is emphasised by the most recent proposals for change to health services from the 1997 Labour government. Comparisons of managerial life between the public and private sectors are made and surveys of NHS managerial work, carried out over a number of years, seem to have produced similar conclusions. Finally a paradigm shift is called for in the leadership of health services in the future if the impact of the external environment is to be managed more effectively and no longer to be seen as a constraint on public sector managerial activity.
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