A new style of leadership in the NHS could lead to reduced infection and mortality rates and bring financial savings, according to a new report.
The study says the NHS should move away from the predominant "pace-setting" style of leadership, based on meeting targets, and create a new model based on more engagement between staff, doctors and patients.
The report by health charity The King's Fund says that organisations with engaged staff deliver a better patient experience and have fewer errors. It says financial management is stronger, staff morale and motivation higher and there is less absenteeism and stress.
The review highlights the links between organisational performance and leaders who engage staff, patients and others in improving care. It says that evidence suggests a strong correlation between levels of staff engagement and hospital mortality rates.
By increasing engagement to the level of the top 20% of hospitals, the average acute trust could reduce patient mortality by 2.4%, it says.
It also found that this could save an estimated £150,000 annually per trust by reducing staff absenteeism alone, indicating the potential to make substantial savings across the NHS as a whole.
The study says: "Engagement is not only a topic of academic interest; it has enormous practical significance. Put simply, organisations with more engaged clinicians and staff achieve better outcomes and experiences for the patients they serve.
"Whether the NHS meets its three big challenges - driving up quality of care for patients and populations, finding billions of pounds of productivity gains, and making the Government's reforms work - will depend on whether staff throughout the NHS see it as their responsibility to design and manage effective systems in their wards, clinics or practices, and feel empowered to do so.
"Tackling any one of these challenges would be difficult; tackling all three simultaneously will be immensely tough, even with an energised and inspired workforce fully committed to the task. When many staff have deep concerns about the current NHS reforms and are worried about financial and service pressures and changes to their pensions, it is sometimes difficult to see a way through."
Chris Ham, chief executive at The King's Fund said: "Our review reveals a compelling business case for leadership based on stronger engagement between staff, clinicians and patients. Instead of making swingeing cuts to the number of NHS managers, our research suggests that a new style of leadership could significantly improve financial and service performance. The reformed NHS must leave behind the command and control culture that has dominated health policy in the last decade and develop leaders who can engage others to deliver further improvements in performance and patient care."