Episode #8: James Gregson on trends transforming life sciences and healthcare    

Life Sciences Connect

James Gregson, our newly appointed UK Life Sciences and Healthcare leader, joins our episode host Samrina Bhatti, to share his thoughts on what’s next for the industry. James talks about his leadership style and what makes a good leader as well as his views on digital transformation,collaboration and developing talent in the Life Sciences and Healthcare industry.

Our host for this episode is Samrina Bhatti, Research Manager for our Deloitte Centre for Health Solutions team. Samrina is joined by James Gregson, Deloitte’s new UK Life Sciences and Healthcare Leader to discuss the trends transforming the industry.

This episode explores:

  • What James hopes to accomplish in his new role
  • Tips for managing work and family life
  • His views on the future of the industry and legacy of the pandemic
  • Advice for companies on how best to prepare for the future


Samrina Bhatti
Research Manager, Centre for Health Solutions

A clinical pharmacist by background, Samrina worked in the NHS for seven years, delivering trust-wide projects in service development and implementation and has led various national projects on medicines use and digital healthcare.

She is part of the commonwealth health partnerships’ for antimicrobial stewardship initiative, an NHS England Clinical Entrepreneur, and is a pre-doctoral fellow at Health Education England. She is also an associate of the Faculty of Clinical Informatics and Institute of Healthcare Management.

James Gregson
Life Sciences & Healthcare Industry Lead

James leads Deloitte’s Life Sciences and Health Care industry in the UK, with a focus on Enterprise Transformation, Cost Reduction and Post Merger Integration.

Over the past 20 years James has led a number of large Cost Reduction and Operational Transformation programmes across several industries, with experience of Operating Model Design, Integrated Business Planning, GBS/Outsourcing, and Technology Implementation.

Read more

Find out more

If you are interested in any of the topics discussed during this episode, please find useful links below:

Sign up for our weekly Life Sciences and Healthcare blog, Thoughts from the Centre, and browse our other insight reports on the Centre for Health Solutions hub.


Samrina Bhatti (00:00:00): Welcome to “Life Sciences Connect”, Deloitte’s Podcast on the Life sciences and healthcare industry. This series features conversations with leaders from across the health ecosystem sharing their insights on the critical issues facing the industry today. Welcome to episode 8 of our life science connect podcast. My name is Samrina Bhatti and I am a manager at the UK Centre for Health Solutions. Today, we are joined by James Gregson our new industry leader for life sciences and healthcare. We will be discussing more about James’s role, leadership both as an individual and across the industry and we will be focussing our discussion on the role of collaboration, digital transformation and the new skills and talent required across industries. So James, congratulations on the new leadership appointment and it’s great to have you with us today. Can you tell us a bit more about why you took on the role and what you hope to accomplish?

James Gregson (00:01:06): Yeah, absolutely thank you Sam, I’m thrilled to take the role and thank you for your congratulation. I’m really passionate about the contribution I think we can make, working with some of the best companies in the market to bring life changing therapies to those who need them the most and at the same time really improving health and wellbeing in the society and I think, you know, it’s a fantastic chapter in the healthcare market’s history in terms of being in the spotlight and really showing the impact that we can have and I’m really hoping that’s a fantastic platform from what we can do going forward.

Samrina Bhatti (00:01:40): Well absolutely, and leadership role must come with lots of demands on your time so can you share with our listeners how you manage this, in particular how your family and work life come together.

James Gregson (00:01:53): Yes, I wish I could get better in that. I’m not always best at managing my time but I absolutely recognise the criticality of that. My family very much as you said there, is my life blood and a top priority in my life. I very much work to live rather that other way around and so that’s the real focus point for me. I guess in terms of what I try to do with mixed effect of time, there are three tips that I could give. First, I stole from a peer of mine who works for another firm, he talked about having a clear account of how much sleep you get in a week and I set myself a challenge of 50 hours sleep a week, it’s not always done in even chunks through the week a lot of our time is spent in surges of effort but I do keep a count of how much I sleep I get to make sure I try and toss it up as best as I can and I find that has a huge impact to the impact that I can make in terms of efforts at work. Second thing, is really being utterly ruthless with diary and time boxing everything I get involved in. I think its very easy in leadership positions to be drawn into a myriad of different challenges and opportunities and issues to be resolved. I think you just need to be very very brutal with your time and making sure that you are very clear about that you’re trying to achieve and planning accordingly for that. So that would be my second tip. And then the third one which sadly is probably the one which suffered the most during the last year or so with the pandemic has been physical health and equally mental health. I’m a firm believer that exercise and physical fitness has a huge impact on my mental agility and confidence and wellbeing as well. That’s definitely my third tip and one that I’ll be working on a lot more in 2021 I hope.

Samrina Bhatti (00:03:42): Yeah, great tips there – Sleep, time management & planning and looking out for your mental-physical health. And that’s you know, it all contributes to our day to day working. Can you share with our listeners what you think, the most important attributes are for successful leaders today.

James Gregson (00:04:01): That’s a great question. I’m a firm believer in situational leadership, so I think leadership is a flexible muscle. Its not a rigid muscle, its not something that only works in a certain formulaic way, that adaptability is critical. But I think beyond that, that sort of response, I’d say that what I try and do as a leader is always remind myself that leaders work for their team and not the other way around. So being an empathetic leader is really really important part of my makeup, listening to teams that I work with, figuring out how I can serve them better and how I can make things happen for them, I think is a really critical attribute. Second thing I would say is ultimately as a leader a lot of it comes down to your decision making and I’ve learned this over the years that strength of decision making, consistency and timeliness of decision making is really important and sticking to what your gut tells you about really important decisions and just getting out and making those decisions is critical. And then the last thing, and it tells more broadly about leadership, is have to have a passion for leading the business that you leave in better shape once you finish in that role. There are always opportunities to improve, grow the business, diversify the business, but that role of stewardship and that you leave things in a better shape than when you found them is a really critical part of it for me.

Samrina Bhatti (00:05:31): Yeah, I mean that’s really interesting. Clearly strong leadership as well as collaboration has been essential for all businesses over the last 12 months. What do you think has been the biggest legacy on our industry as a result of the global pandemic?

James Gregson (00:05:46): Everyone’s favourite subject at the moment I know, around the pandemic. I think we are far from over so its difficult to talk about legacy at this stage. Sadly, I think there are definitely miles to be run still into how we come out of that and may be more on that in a second, but I think what definitely is being proven so far for the industry has been really a story of extraordinary adaptability. Something that I don’t think too many people would argue is the strength of the healthcare market in the past but I really think there has been unprecedented level of collaboration between government and public health, the private sector, the role it can play and the regulators. And that really has changed the way in which we work, an accelerated delivery of therapies to market and I had the privilege during the last 9-10 months or so for working on some of those efforts, in some of those clinical trials, in some of those efforts around testing. And it was phenomenal just to see what could be achieved when the mindset is set in the right way and I very much hope that the analogy of the toothpaste coming out of the tube and that being irreversible but it sets a tone and an attitude in the industry going forward about how we work together to solve problems at pace, I really hope that its something that sticks. In particular, that dynamic between regulators and innovators and caregivers, I think that conundrum and that interoperability between those different parties is essential to find some of the ways of working between going forward good outcomes for patients and people more broadly. I said in terms of legacy is too early to talk about, I have to also call out is that I think what I hope as well as what would be a transition from the sort of the emergency measures of a pandemic back as that slip back to becoming more of a manageable disease that we’ll see a similar pivot back to civil liberties and personal choice, the sort of things that we very much enjoy as part of being in a liberal democracy, we really have to return to that and I think that would really be a second legacy of I think of how well we’re doing in coping and managing the pandemic.

Samrina Bhatti (00:08:14): Yeah, absolutely and agree with the analogy as well with the toothpaste being out of the tube. Looking forward what makes you excited about the future of our industry?

James Gregson (00:08:26): It’s difficult to say what am I not excited about. As I said, I genuinely mean that in terms of what I said earlier on, healthcare is probably in the spotlight in a way that it has never been before. Not necessarily for reasons that we would like but obviously as an accelerator for what we can do. It means that I’m very excited about the direction of travel for healthcare. I’ve touched on some of these things before, I sat down for dinner with my daughters, I have got a 16 year and a 19 year old daughter. I sat down for dinner with them this weekend and we were talking about career choices and I was passionately telling the tale of what we’re doing at Deloitte and how we are helping during this critical phase and of course what I’ve been going through the last few months around. I think they identify with the industry so much more than never before and I started to feel that passion which I struggled to explain to them in the past about what I did for a living and what it would might mean to them. I think specifically, one of the things I’m intrigued about in terms of the trends that are coming up and the direction of travel is – power of diagnostics is a really important part of what’s coming in the industry. Obviously, diagnostics has been around from a very very long time but I think the pandemic has really shone lights on the importance of diagnostics and investment in diagnostics. And what we have certainly seen, I think, is a huge change in terms of realisation of the power of diagnostics and the multiple ways in which it can be applied, whether its companion diagnostics or its about releasing people off this period of lockdown. But I think broadly, more broadly as well, I think care design is moving to be more of a patient and people centric principle. Really being a lot more fluid about where care is delivered around people and people’s choice, I think that’s a fantastic part of the future that we can see starting to happen as well. And then I would say one of the topics that personally I’m very very motivated around is decarbonisation of healthcare and really thinking about the sustainability of medicine and medicine delivery across society. I think it’s a huge footprint that we leave today and there’s a lot that we need to do in that space and I really see how our clients are waking to the challenge around decarbonisation and broader sustainability and I think that would be a really strong part of strategy going forward and I really hope that Deloitte can be helpful to our clients in that way. And then I’d probably would call out one other area that I’m really excited about and that’s the area of trusted partnership, back to what I was saying about the legacy of the pandemic. You can really see how innovation is going to be turbocharged by the collaboration between different sources of partnerships, academia and pharma like we saw with Oxford and AstraZeneca of course, but all sorts other versions of that in terms of data conveners, the private sector working with the public sector more effectively. I think that collaboration is absolutely at the heart of what will drive innovation going forward and I’m very excited to be a part of that.

Samrina Bhatti (00:11:43): Yeah, absolutely it’s a really an interesting point you rose, certainly seeing innovation being driven through collaboration and also you picked up on care redesign around people and not place so much. And just on the subject of I guess, a lot of this is driven through digital transformation and what is the latest technology or innovation that you’d like to see adopted or adopted more widely in our industry?

James Gregson (00:12:10): That’s a great question, this could be a very long conversation, I mean technology of course covers so many different aspects of innovation and care delivery these days, it’s difficult to pick out specific names but I’ll do my best. It comes back to the point, some of the themes that we’ve spoken about already and that’s interoperable data. I think that really is at its heart the most transformational technology area that we could focus on, cloud based solution giving us a complete new license to look at interoperable data and the generation of either real world analytics or being outcome based healthcare or AI being used to accelerate drug discovery, I think that really is the area that I’m most focussed on which I think is most exciting to the future but then you have to say there are other things about virtualisation technologies which I think are so critical that will allow for what we just talked about care redesign around people and also around how healthcare professionals engage in collaborate and share, I think that’s absolutely critical as well. So, probably call out those two areas above anyone else but you know you can look fun to fact with the organisations and right into the back office and see the power of technology and how that’s really going to change the paradigm of healthcare.

Samrina Bhatti (00:13:39): Yeah, and there’s a huge degree of transformation taking place and we know the future of our industry will depend on new skills and talents so what are some of the requirements that you think will help companies shift their talent strategy?

James Gregson (00:13:54): Well, I think that talent is one of the … I think talent is, issues around talent and the opportunities around talent are moving almost as fast as the digital care right now. I mean if you think about the impact that the last 12 months has had on virtual working, impaired mobility in some strange way has actually made the globe smaller, where we are all actually seeing a lot more of each other albeit through a digital screen but it brought talent delivery much closer together and extended the reach into the global pockets that were quite difficult to do so in the past. I think the first thing around talent in that, its more than ever it’s a global opportunity and I think any organisation should be stretching that neck as far as they possibly can to see how they can engage talent while we are really starting to understand what that mobility looks like going forward, the mobility to work from any corner of the earth. The second thing around talent which I think is crucial, I mean everyone talks about the fact that 80% of new jobs in 10 years’ time will be different than they are today or whatever that analysis tells us. It really means that there must be new path ways around talent acquisition, management and development. I think the onus for that is absolutely on the employers to really be more creative around, I think that creativity required is not always as good as it should be, but you know career pathways and talent pathways ultimately have to be driven by the employers and I think there is all sorts of exciting opportunities about how that’s done going forward. And lastly, I think the area of development is all very well, people are very fixated on recruitment and bringing in new talent and all the challenges and opportunities that brings but, I’d really like to see a double down on investment and development of talent. I think the expectations on us as individuals are developing more at a time. More and more we are expected to be a multi core players or having a multitude of different attributes and that doesn’t come easily and I think to develop a framework within your organisation without stretching and development the talent of tomorrow and not just pre occupied with qualifications to do well today is a critical path of that strategy.

Samrina Bhatti (00:16:17): Yes, absolutely. Some really interesting points there. But to wrap up once piece of advice which you’ll give our listeners as they look ahead and prepare for the future.

James Gregson (00:16:30): Yes, I think what I minded to say in response to that is that change is the only constant. I think as we look forward, if we were having this conversation 12-18 months ago, it would have been a very different conversation. The dynamics would have been different, we couldn’t have foreseen what was going to happen to your lives, to our society and to the importance and focus of healthcare in the relationship between the government and private sector and care givers and etc. You have to have that mindset, managing for today is not satisfactory at all, I think we need to be bold, we need to be thinking about how these trends might take us further forward. We’ve put a lot of effort in Deloitte over the last few years to already consider the future of health not in terms of the next five years but really looking 10 years plus out and we can see some very very different trends for how I think the industry is going to move and so we have to have that thinking, we have to be thinking all the time about what role my organisation and myself as a player are going to take in the years to come, it’d be very adaptable so I’m sure what will be a very dynamic future.

Samrina Bhatti (00:17:43): Thank you so much James and unfortunately, we are coming towards the end of our podcast, its been an absolute pleasure to speak to you and hear about your insights. Thank you so much for joining us today.

James Gregson (00:17:55): My pleasure Sam. Thank you!

Samrina Bhatti (00:17:58): You’ve given us some great insights and many of the themes you’ve discussed such as data, collaboration, and skills & talent feature in our recent predictions report which can be found on our website. Our previous podcast also draws on these themes further and these can be found on your preferred podcast streaming service. Thank you James and thank you to our audience for listening to our podcast. I hope you would join us again in our next episode in the life sciences connect podcast series. For now, thank you and goodbye.

Life Sciences Connect

To see the full collections of episodes so far, please visit the Life Sciences Connect podcast library.

Did you find this useful?