Review of NICE Scholar programme

The NICE Scholarship programme is not a typical ‘development’ programme. Similar leadership development schemes such as the Darzi Fellowships and Medical Directors Clinical Advisor scheme are funded positions placing the candidate in unfamiliar environments to develop projects which are new to them. The NICE Scholars are unfunded but present their own projects which they would like to develop as part of the interview process. They remian working in their normal environment which has its benefits and challenges.

The NICE Scholars were initially set up as a result of the Darzi review which suggested that NICE should have 1000s of ambassadors! NICE took a pragmatic approach and commenced with 10 scholars (doctors in training) on a one year attachment and 10 Fellows (consultants) who spend three years with the organisation. The initial cohort of Scholars (2010) consisted of a range of specialties and grades, from ST1s to senior SpRs and from public health to physiotherapy.  Each scholar came armed with a project to deliver over a year, on a nominal one day a week release from their clinical duties as arranged with their trust. Over the year they receive two forms of assistance:

i)                Personal mentorship in the form of a senior Mentor from NICE

ii)               Access to a programme of workshops delivered by NICE on implementation, Guideline Development and other relevant topics. 

The personal mentorship is a bespoke programme which allows the scholars access to not just the knowledge of their mentor, but through them, access to the brains and brawn of NICE. Scholars have had direct access to some leading names in implementation theory such as Martin Eccles or to board members of NICE itself. Other possibilities that open are statistical advice or just help in the form of a contact from within their own region they might not have known about. The workshops provide first hand expert education on the mechanistics of the organisation. Highlights have included Lord Darzi speaking on ‘innovation’ and a team of implementation experts reviewing each of the scholars projects to improve and refine them. Much content in the workshops is available by no other means.

 The Scholars programme does require a lot of internal motivation from its participants. The mentors role is to not to supervise in the classical sense, and the scholars are certainly not man managed. In a way this form of working is a leadership development opportunity in itself. It really is up to the scholar to deliver on their objectives as no-one else can, or will be, completing it for them. The scholars programme has produced success – so far two of the initial cohort have been shortlisted for Shared Learning Awards and a number have published their work.  A few of have subsequently joined guideline development groups and one has been appointed as a reviewer for the National Review of Asthma Deaths board for 2012.

 There are challenges in the form of obtaining the time from work to complete the project and developing contacts can be a slow process. However as the website demonstrates the participants often use their experiences to their advantage and having reach a third year of recruitment it is likely the programme will continue to run. Who knows – maybe those thousands of ambassadors will be reached one day!


This summary of the NICE Scholars programme is the personal view of Dr. Damian Roland and is does not necessarily represent the views of NICE  

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