Professor Martin Elliott is one of the world’s leading paediatric heart and lung surgeons. He has led teams in complex operations, managed large departments, and been at the forefront of medical and operational innovations for three decades. He served as Medical Director at The Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children.
In arguably one of the most pressured, sensitive areas of work, Elliott provides a unique look behind the scenes of a world few truly understand, yet everyone is aware of. He examines the pressures and the priorities, the highs and lows, and the array of lessons for organisations, teams and leaders.
Elliott has led and been involved with technical innovations such as growing human tissue and stem cell-based transplants. He has changed areas of patient outcome and experience. He has overseen co-operation between heart departments around the UK and Europe and trained surgeons and teams around the world, and contributed to service and operational reforms.
As a leader in the theatre and the hospital, he analyses when to step back and let others, more expert in their chosen field, take charge, and when and how to step in when things start to go wrong. He considers the dynamic of an effective team, especially working under stress and with tight timeframes (a baby’s heart can only be stopped for two hours before irreparable damage is done).
Elliott has worked with industries outside healthcare, including motorsport, aviation and others, to improve the processes and understanding of all involved. For example, Ferrari F1’s pit crew helped reinvent how surgical teams hand-over to intensive care teams (one of the riskiest parts of the operation process) and with McLaren and Etiometry how to spot potential problems before they become chronic, by comparing the vital signs of the child to engine performance data.
In an area where there is nowhere to hide (success and failure are a matter of life and death; families demand answers, and children ask blunt questions about what’s happening to them) Elliott has worked to create a culture of accountability without blame. Allowing for failure as long as there is insight from that failure and enabling others to highlight errors regardless of their role or seniority.