Are NHS Council of Governors representative of the public they serve?
As you may have gathered by now I have been a NHS governor for about 5 years, whenever elections come around or discussions around them the one aspect that really worries me is these roles tend generally speaking to attract a certain type of person that is not necessarily part or representative of the population they serve.
Each NHS Foundation Trust should be looking at how else they can attract more people to the role of governor, all ages, disabilities, backgrounds, it should and does not matter what you previous experience is the fact you are independent is the key, it could be argued that the less experience in a certain area could mean you are more able to hold your trust to account, if they are unable to explain and communicate this in a way you understand then this is critical as to how they engage with different trust stake holders, now there is nothing wrong if people do have experience however if you have worked in the NHS for 40 years, retire then become a governor I would question how independent you are.
The more varied different personalities and backgrounds entering the council the better really, if you do a search across the country I wonder how stereotypical council of governors are in terms of their corporate makeup.
In my opinion we should require people who:
· Have experiences of the trust but critically a bad experience, its great to have positive ambassadors for the trust but the most effective one is where they have experiences that have not been good that are ‘learning the lessons’ of how the most vulnerable in the community feel.
· Explain how the most destitute in the community, those who live on low income coming into contact with the trust are treated.
· How people with barriers including people who speak the tongue other than English how they engage with the trust, the reality is many communities have multi-nationalities so we should be geared up to helping, this is not a time to talk about if you agree with the whole immigration issue we have to accept communities as they are?
· People who know their areas well and are well connected to represent them on the council of governors and are unbiased, the ability to tell directors when they are wrong but when they get it right support them, one governor who will remain nameless was so close to the trust’s staff they could do anything and she would support them, this is an issue to be able to step back and decide what is best.
· People who have experienced life in its fullest with all it’s ups and downs, who have been service users but more importantly service users with their friends and family so they can testify first hand identifying with their constituents.
· It is one thing towing the ‘corporate line’ however people should not feel inferior they cannot be outspoken and say it in ‘layman’s talk’, don’t hold back tell your executive and non executive team what they need to hear not paying lip service, you are independent and to hold them to account.
In my view NHS Council of Governors are NOT representative of the service users and communities of the trust by the people that they seem to attract so you need as a trust to look at what traditional or basic methods you use and to then be more creative, this can specific to local communities or generic, the more richness and diversity of experiences around the table the better.
We need to be having a more national debate on this subject, issue some better guidelines around this matter and have better strategies but more importantly not talk about it actually be bold and implement it.
Updated 3rd July 2016