Caroline Dove, CEO of NHS Elect, talks to the BNC!

caroline dove.jpg

Hi everyone, thank you so much for your questions, which were brilliant, and I’ve tried to answer them to the best of my ability. My name is Caroline Dove and I have worked in NHS leadership for 30+ years (since leaving university in 1989!) For the last 15 years I’ve been the CEO of a small national organisation called NHS Elect (www.nhselect.nhs.uk). We work to help doctors and nurses improve services and to train NHS leaders to support clinicians to deliver great care. Before that I worked as a hospital manager, working in several large hospitals across the NHS. I love the NHS and am proud to work for such a fantastic organisation. I hope some of you will consider a career in the NHS when you leave school, we need talented young people to join us and help us to deliver great care for many years to come.



How does the shortage of staff within the NHS have an impact on your every day job?
funny_camel, Noel Park Primary School

Thanks funny_camel. That’s a great question. Overall, I think the shortage of staff is the biggest challenge we face in the NHS right now. People talk a lot about the NHS needing more money and of course, that would be great, but we spend 70% of our money on staff and so we need more people who want to work in the NHS (and who have the right training) to spend our money on. I am lucky in that my organisation is small and fully-staffed, but many leaders in charge of large organisations (such as hospitals that employ thousands of people) are struggling to cover rotas and staff patient services.


What is the biggest change you had to make or suggest which many of the doctors and nurses didn't really like?
skillful_passionfruit, Graveney School

Hi skillful_passionfruit, I have always tried to work in partnership with clinical staff and I think that the job of NHS leaders is to help front-line clinicians to develop services that better meet the needs of their patients. I have sometimes been part of national teams trying to help spread known best practice and then you do occasionally meet resistance from people who don’t want to change their local arrangements – examples here would include reducing length of stay in hospital for some conditions. However, doctors and nurses are all so keen to do the right thing for their patients that they will almost always be prepared to listen to ideas from other places and try to work out how they adopt these in their own areas.


Doctors and nurses are all so keen to do the right thing for their patients that they will almost always be prepared to listen to ideas from other places

Caroline Dove


I would like to know what you think about the prospect of privatising the NHS, and how would it affect the staff and/or patients?
clever_atom, Faringdon Community College

Hi clever_atom, when we hear in the newspapers about ‘privatising the NHS’, what people are often talking about is allowing private health care providers to deliver services for NHS patients. I think this can be helpful, for example where we have a shortage of NHS services and private providers can help meet patient needs (e.g. for things like hearing aids) and, of course, these services are still free at the point of delivery for NHS patients. I love the fact that we have an NHS that is largely provided within the public sector and think this helps us to share and learn together and is a fantastic model. I can’t see the NHS ever being ‘privatised’ in a way that would mean that people pay for most of their care and I certainly think that would be a terrible outcome for patients and staff.


Where did you get your passion for making big changes in the NHS to improve the service?
persistent_effort, Arnhem Wharf Primary School

Thanks persistent_effort. To be honest I have always been interested in how we can deliver great public services as I think so many people in our country rely on our public services for their health and well-being and to access opportunities in life. I joined the NHS after university as I really wanted to make a positive contribution and a real difference to people’s lives. Having worked a hospital manager from many years, I realised that the work I enjoyed most and was best at was helping clinical teams plan and deliver improvements and connecting teams with one another to learn and share. We all use the NHS, and I just really want to be able to help clinicians to do the best job possible for their patients (me, you, and our families and friends).


Having worked a hospital manager from many years, I realised that the work I enjoyed most and was best at was helping clinical teams plan and deliver improvements and connecting teams with one another to learn and share.

Caroline Dove


I was wondering what is your favourite thing about the NHS and why? I am really intrigued to know what you are most proud of about the NHS!
receptive_robin, Ormiston Six Villages Academy

Thank you receptive_robin. My favourite thing about the NHS is the incredible people who work in it, day after day. I am so privileged in my current job as every day I meet new teams of doctors and nurses who are trying so hard to give the very best care, often in difficult circumstances. I am so humbled daily by the dedication, commitment and good humour shown by the NHS teams and it makes me so proud to be part of this great team. I wouldn’t want to work for any other organisation. I think the response of NHS staff during the Covid-19 outbreak has demonstrated this huge commitment and passion so well – we are all grateful for the care and service of the clinical teams right now.


Thank you very much to Caroline Dove for taking time out of her busy schedule to talk to us.

Caroline has said she is happy to answer further questions - so get adding yours below!

  • What else would you like to know?
  • Is there anything Caroline said that you wish to follow-up on?
  • What new questions can you think of, based on Caroline's answers?

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