10 governance essentials

21 July 2023

Many of the following articles were developed during the pandemic and our advice today would be framed slightly differently, but it's worth going back to revisit the thinking during the pandemic and using it as a challenge to our custom and practice today.

During COVID-19 it was more important than ever that boards be at the top of their game. But what are the key characteristics of successful boards and what mindset and behaviours did they need to adopt to maximise their effectiveness as we moved into the recovery phase?

Having a quality committee is not a requirement for the NHS in England but the case for having one is overwhelming. We argued that boards must be ready to make Covid lessons stick with a focused, effective and efficient quality committee.

This board assurance prompt provides a high-level summary of some of the principal challenges facing quality committees during the pandemic, along with a selection of key assurance questions that quality committees should be asking.

The move to integrated care makes the role of the audit committee more important than ever – but how should they work in a system? As custodians of billions of pounds of public money, ICSs have a responsibility to stay resolutely focused on the improvement of service provision.

The role of the audit committee is separate and distinct from the other committees of the board. This board assurance prompt explores the audit committee’s unique role and importance for good governance and provides the board with a guide for its effective administration.

As we began the post-pandemic reset, boards agreed that the dramatic cutting back on assurance meetings was rather nice, and lacked an appetite for just returning to how governance was. Guillotined meetings, reduced agendas and fewer assurance papers worked very well and the ‘assurance industry’ was not missed.

Assurance and reassurance are fundamentally different – and understanding that distinction is critical to good governance. Yet in our consultancy work we witness confusion between the two and that has an impact on board effectiveness and organisational governance.

GGI’s 2019 Festival Review featured an article entitled Strategy for a VUCA world by Lawrence Tallon, former Director of Strategy, University Hospitals Birmingham (UHB) NHS Foundation Trust. VUCA is an abbreviation of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity – all characteristics that were in plentiful supply throughout the pandemic.

Good Friday 2022 saw the announcement of the 8th Festival of Governance – Good governance because fairer is better. Judge Professor Mervyn King, whose seminal reports on corporate governance form the basis of GGI’s consultancy approach, makes the case that fairness belongs at the heart of good governance.

Politicians languish at the bottom of the Ipsos Veracity Index index, which measures public trust in various professions. This suggests either that we make poor choices about who we elect or that there is an ongoing cultural issue at the heart of the legislature and, just as acutely, at the heart of government itself.

Prepared by GGI Development and Research LLP for the Good Governance Institute.

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