Professor Martin Elliott

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Professor of Paediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery

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Former Co-Medical Director at The Great Ormond Street Hospital and one of the country’s leading paediatric surgeons, Martin considers his career in this most sensitive and high-pressure of worlds. From working with McLaren F1 to improve interaction between teams to developing stem-cell based transplants; from managing departments to taking the lead in the theatre, he has lessons that apply to any organisation seeking to improve what they do, innovate or understand culture, leadership and teamwork.


Martin Elliott is one of the country’s leading paediatric surgeons and served as Co-Medical Director at The Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children. He has led teams in complex operations, managed large departments, and been at the forefront of medical and operational innovations for three decades.

In arguably one of the most pressured, sensitive areas of work, Martin 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.

Martin 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).

Martin has worked with industries outside healthcare, including motorsport, aviation and with Nasa, to improve the processes and understanding of all involved. For example, McLaren 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 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) Martin 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.

With stories from his career, as well as the wider health service, Martin provides practical insights into innovation, leadership and culture, as well as a fascinating look at the surgery, holding a life in your hands, and what surgeons really think.

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Agent Recommendation

An extraordinary leader in an extraordinary environment, it's hard not to feel humble listening to Martin! In a wonderfully focused way he makes you want to be receptive to new ideas wherever they come from. While his goal might be trying to fine tune the handover of a baby from operating table to intensive care unit, it’s clear that the principles are the same whatever the process and wherever people have to work together. JLA Agent Jessica Mears

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