Clinical leadership case study: physiotherapist and director of allied health professionals


Rachel McKeown, Director of Allied Health Professionals, Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, on becoming a clinical leader.

My journey

I am the Director of Allied Health Professionals which is a sub-board position. I am also the Professional and Strategic AHP Lead across the organisation. My role reports to the Director of Nursing.  

I found that having the title of director, has helped elevate my position. It also opens doors so that I can influence at a strategic and board position level both internal and external to the organisation. The seniority of my role reflects the organisation’s desire to raise the profile of AHPs within the trust and more widely within the system. 

The turning point

Having held Head of Service and Head of Therapy posts previously, I had reached a glass ceiling professionally. As such I progressed in senior operational, quality and transformational roles outside AHP professional and operational leadership. This was instrumental to being successful in the Director of AHPs position.

My clinical profession is represented through the Director of Nursing at the board. Diversity of AHP professions is difficult to represent without specialist professional knowledge and this can result in potential opportunities for AHPs being lost, despite excellent working relations with the Director of Nursing. 

Key barriers/challenges and how I worked through these

  • There is a lack of professional AHP roles or opportunities to progress at senior and strategic level beyond band 8b/8c. This results in the potential to lose talented individuals from senior clinical leadership. There has been some improvement with opportunities from NHS England and NHS Improvement. These national roles also provide essential peer support.
  • There is a lack of a clear leadership pathway for AHPs.
  • I personally left the professional AHP leadership pathway as could not progress further. My ambition was always to be a director of AHPs, however due to lack of opportunity I started to follow senior leadership outside AHPs, until this recent opportunity arose. 

Organisational support to make this happen

Midlands Partnership Foundation Trust recognised the value of AHPs to the organisation’s success and so invested in the director of AHPs role. Recognising AHPs diversity and ensuring their voice is heard at board raises the profile, and unique contribution AHPs make to Midlands Partnership Foundation Trust.

My top tips

  • Keep positive, always offer AHP solutions to system-wide challenges.
  • Think creatively and differently as our training has facilitated.
  • Keep options open, AHPs can lead within and outside their own professions. 
  • Be prepared to do something different if there are limitations to AHP leadership roles.
  • Senior operational roles/national secondments/transformational roles enhance the knowledge and experience you bring back to AHP leadership.

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