OBJECTIVES: Key reforms in England and Japan have called for greater clinical leadership from general dental practitioners to deliver improvements in the quality of care for patients. In England, the reorganisation of the National Health Service has led to the development of Local Professional Networks to ensure services are clinically led, patient and outcome focused. In Japan, the rapidly changing demographics have led to calls for general dental practitioners to become more active in meeting the emerging population health challenges. Both require engagement at a strategic and a local level. However, little is known about what is meant by clinical leadership in dentistry or what training needs exist. The aim of this study was to develop and pilot a questionnaire to understand what general dental practitioners feel is important about clinical leadership and how they rate themselves.
METHODS: A 61-item questionnaire was developed from the literature, an earlier qualitative study and refined through cognitive interviews. Questionnaires were distributed to general dental practitioners across the North West of England and Tokyo, using random sequence generation. For each item, the participant had to record whether they thought the statement was an important component of clinical leadership and how they rated themselves. Both were rated using a seven-point Likert scale. Data reduction was undertaken using principal component analysis to examine for factor loadings within the questionnaire. Differences in mean scores were also used to highlight substantive differences in how general dental practitioners rated the different components of leadership and how they rated themselves.
RESULTS: The response rate for the pilot was low (22.9% and 7.5% for North West and Tokyo respectively). The items that were considered to be important in leadership reduced to two components in the North West (accounting for 62.1% of the total variance): 'How to lead' and 'How not to lead'. In Tokyo, 56.4% of the total variance was explained by three components: 'Demonstrating personal qualities', 'Working with others' and 'How not to lead'. When the self-rated items were reduced, three factors were found to be important in the North West: 'Working with others', 'Setting direction' and 'Managing services' (55.1% of the variance). 'Working with others', 'Demonstrating personal qualities', 'Pragmatism', 'Setting direction' and 'Improving services' were found to be important in Tokyo (52.8% of the variance). The questionnaire items relating to integrity, team-working and having a positive attitude during difficult times were rated highly by both groups. Items relating to providing vision for team, being assertive and having a positive attitude had the greatest mean difference, suggesting possible areas of training need.
CONCLUSION: The nature of the pilot study and the poor response rate makes any conclusion difficult to infer. Among those that participated, leadership was understood to be more important at a practice level rather than at a strategic level. The questionnaire should be refined further based on the results of the pilot and the data reduction.