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How to Ask for NHS Fellowship Funding

NHS Fellowship Funding

Asking your employer for funding for professional development can be a daunting conversation not least if you work in a notoriously cash-strapped organisation such as the NHS.

However, a 2020 report by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) showed that the basic Gender Pay Gap in England was 21% for clinical academics, 24% for hospital doctors and a staggering 34% for GPs.

When you consider statistics like these, it becomes clear that the conversation is worth having.

Year on year we have seen an increase in NHS applications for the Leaders Plus Fellowship and this year we launched our dedicated NHS Fellowship offering a tailored programme for those working in clinical and non-clinical roles.

With most of our NHS Fellows securing funding from their employers to take part, we asked their advice for anyone considering applying.

Here’s what they had to say.

Don’t assume the answer will be ‘No’

One piece of advice that has come through loud and clear from our NHS Fellows is simply if you don’t ask you don’t get.

As Laura Churchward, Director of Strategy at UCLH, recently tweeted, “Go and ask, they can only say no (I would say yes if it was one of my team – this is really good development and will pay off in the long run for the NHS).”

Laura Churchward - Twitter - NHS Fellowship


Victoria Sellers - Leaders Plus FellowLeaders Plus Fellow, Victoria Moore, Associate Director of Excellence Delivery, Moorfields Eye Hospital describes the initial conversation she had with her line manager when she returned from maternity leave:

“I mentioned the fellowship to my line manager [and] he was really supportive. He approached my director (who held the leadership development budget) and he was very supportive too… They generally value leadership development and thought this fellowship was great.”

Victoria even went on to secure partial funding for her place through the NHS Leadership Academy to contribute to the budget provided by her department.


There is funding… you just need to find it!

This leads us nicely to our next point. When it comes to funding talking to the right people is crucial.

Many of our NHS Fellows have described how senior managers are supportive but unaware of the funding that is available. So, it is often a case of asking several people before finding the appropriate ‘pot’.

And these ‘pots’ can be found in a variety of places – leadership development programmes, post maternity leave support schemes, even study budgets can be used.

One anonymous Fellow told us she had found out that Postgraduate Medical Education budgets are sent back every year because they are not used!

So, make a list of people to reach out to. This could include:

  • Medical Director
  • Clinical Director
  • Director of Medical Education
  • HR department
  • Hospital charities
  • Peers who might be aware of accessible funding you could take advantage of

You can also talk to us about spreading the costs or consider accessing one of the part-funded places available, such as those provided by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine.

You may find this episode of the Big Careers, Small Children podcast featuring Paul Fisher (Associate Fellow and Programme Director of the Oxford Programme on Negotiation) useful for your negotiations as it’s packed full of tips. Listen now.

Be clear on the benefits

One piece of advice we give to all prospective Fellows when approaching a funding conversation with their employer is to be 100% clear on the benefits for the organisation, not just for them personally.

So, before you have your meeting do your research and think about the following:

  • Use specific data around the issues facing the NHS. Using powerful stats like the Gender Pay Gap report mentioned earlier makes the conversation urgent and relevant.
  • Emphasise the cost of attrition vs the relatively small cost of investing in your people to nurture their senior careers for the NHS. For example, one report found that the annual cost to the NHS of NOT addressing nurse retention issues is estimated at £21.7 billion!
  • Arm yourself with an understanding of the impact of the Fellowship. For instance, feedback in our Impact Evaluation showed that Fellows from the NHS showed some of the highest scores on completion.
  • Consider the bigger picture. The Fellowship is designed to create a network of change-makers so think about how you can use your learning on the Fellowship to benefit your team or department. This could be spearheading a network group for return-to-work parents or providing your perspective to HR about the experiences of working parents.

Talk to other NHS Fellows

One of the best recommendations we can offer is to connect with other Leaders Plus Fellows to see how they approached their conversations and to understand their experience of the Fellowship.

Leaders Plus FellowOne recent graduate, Rosie Drage, Head of Patient Experience, NHS Sussex, described the direct impact the Fellowship had for her.

“Leaders Plus was an amazing, informative, and supportive process at a time of transition after a huge life change. I am so proud to say that within a month of finishing the fellowship I secured a prof role within the NHS that I don’t think I would have had the confidence of going for before the fellowship”.

Rosie was fortunate to have been sent the link to the Fellowship from the CEO of her Trust who encouraged her to apply with the support of full funding.

If you would like us to put you in touch with a graduate Fellow then please let us know.

Interested to find out more? Join our Group Calls happening throughout September or arrange a personal call back with a member of the Leaders Plus team.

Ready to apply? Download our application form today. Applications close Tuesday 18 June 2024.

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