Objective To explore the relationship between leadership effectiveness and health-care trust performance, taking into account external quality measures and the number of patient complaints; also, to examine the role of care quality climate as a mediator.
Design We developed scales for rating leadership effectiveness and care quality climate. We then drew upon UK national indices of health-care trust performance—Commission for Health Improvement star ratings, Clinical Governance Review ratings and the number of patient complaints per thousand. We conducted statistical analysis to examine any significant relationships between predictor and outcome variables.
Setting The study is based on 86 hospital trusts run by the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK. The data collection is part of an annual staff survey commissioned by the NHS to explore the quality of working life.
Participants A total of 17 949 employees were randomly surveyed (41% of the total sample).
Results Leadership effectiveness is associated with higher Clinical Governance Review ratings and Commission for Health Improvement star ratings for our sample (β = 0.42, P < 0.05; β = 0.37, P < 0.05, respectively), and lower patient complaints (β = −0.57, P < 0.05). In addition, 98% of the relationship between leadership and patient complaints is explained by care quality climate.
Conclusions Results offer insight into how non-clinical leadership may foster performance outcomes for health-care organizations. A frequently neglected area—patient complaints—may be a valid measure to consider when assessing leadership and quality in a health-care context.