60 seconds interview special with Caroline Clarke

25 March 2019

Caroline Clarke, RFL group chief executive

You joined the RFH as a finance trainee in 1991 and have spent the last seven years as deputy chief executive. Why did you make the decision to come back to the RFL?

I came back to the RFL in 2011 to help the leadership team make the transition to foundation trust status. I had worked with a number of the team previously and I really respected them and liked their patient centred approach, and the genuine emphasis on clinical leadership and academic excellence.

Our mission of providing world class treatment to patients, coupled with world class teaching and research really resonates with me.

Why did you want to become group chief executive?

I’ve spent nearly 30 years talking data and outcomes, and I now realise that the way we make change is utterly reliant on the connections we make as individuals, the relationships that we forge, the sense of possibility and optimism that we can bring.

I’ve seen us do this on some of our really amazing projects – Chase Farm Hospital, and the development of clinical practice groups to name but two, and I want to do more of that. I genuinely think that what we are doing here will change the nature of healthcare and that’s why I wanted to become group chief executive.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the trust?

It would be easy to talk about money, but actually the biggest issue is around making sure we have enough staff, in the right places, with the right skills to treat our patients. The NHS is predicting some extremely concerning workforce shortages unless we radically transform our services. I think that we are going to be at the forefront of that transformation, but the challenge will be whether we can do it quickly enough.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Loads of meetings and increasingly time spent with teams on all our sites, trying to figure out how we are going to show off all the brilliant work that we do here.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Surround yourself with people who are better than you. The job is the team. Individual glory is for tennis players.

What is your ambition for the trust?

To be at the forefront of providing the best possible care for the people we serve.

Who is your biggest inspiration?

I’d like to give you the name of a great political leader or historical character, but in truth, my nine-year-old daughter provides more inspiration to do a great job and make sure that we have a great care system into the future. And she keeps my feet firmly on the ground. Plus she’s the only person in the house who can programme our TV.

How do you relax?

I see quite a bit of live music – I’m a big fan of The Roundhouse in Camden. I practise mindfulness, and I am trying to get back into running but am currently wrestling with my diary to make that happen.

What’s the best thing about your job so far?

I’ve been lucky enough to spend time with a number of teams in very different parts of the group, who have been generous enough to share their work with me, and it’s so utterly brilliant to see the great care we give our patients. I’m loving meeting lots of different people, and reconnecting with some old friends – I won’t get round to everyone immediately, but I’m definitely up for coming to meet teams so invite me.

How do you think the role of a hospital might need to change in the future, to help us support local people to stay healthy and happy as well as caring for them when they are sick?

I’ve heard people use the term ‘hospitals without walls’ and I do think we need to think differently about what a hospital is. In the future we will work more closely with other care providers. 

Our staff will increasingly work out of hospital settings, and we will welcome others into our buildings.

Tell us something about you that very few people know…

I used to play the bass guitar and I’ve started playing again, badly!