1 April 2022 – non-executive directors – reflections on the second anniversary of GGI’s NED development webinars

01 April 2022

This week’s session marked the second anniversary of the GGI NED development programme weekly webinars. Our guests reflected on two years of GGI’s Friday morning webinars.

Overheard during the discussion:

“The overarching message from Covid is that no matter where you work, we are exceptionally adaptable. We know what we’re there to do, we know what we stand for, we know what it is we need to explore and look for, and we’ve adapted according to the immediate needs of our organisations were at the time.”

“The central control model and the sense of direction that was coming to the execs in all of our hospitals telling us to modify this, close that, don’t do this, do that… it was so powerfully strong during the pandemic. It was probably the most directive the NHS has ever been and therefore it wasn’t wrong for us to follow that direction. I suppose my curiosity now is: could I have known more, could I have thought more about long-term consequences? Because fundamentally that’s the role of the NED: to lift out of the here and now and make sure the long term is being processed alongside the short term.”

“Two years ago this didn’t feel real. It was the sort of thing that you read about in books or see in films. It’s not the sort of thing that happens to me, here, today. The critical difference now is that we all see that it is real, it does happen. We’ve got to have a degree of organisational flexibility that allows us to step up and step down. We’ve got to be able to take it on the chin if we’re given the challenge of stopping doing something and living with the public pain of that decision, or to continuing to do something and living with the staff pain of that decision. There aren’t many people around now who would feel something like the pandemic couldn’t happen again. We’ve got much stronger processes and much stronger working relationships.”

“I’ve got to thank GGI for two years of resourcing and helping to support this. In the early days we decided to go against some of the central advice and step up – we went in and supported our staff. Engagement was a big thing for us. We spoke to the front lines regularly to get feedback so we could do proper risk assessments. I’ve made some great contacts through this network and that’s been very reassuring.”

“I've found these forums to be an incredibly safe and supportive space. Everyone's candour on the challenges gives me comfort that I am not alone, and the discussions give me tips on how to progress with my own organisation.”

“These sessions have been incredible. Being able to share and bring external thoughts into my trust and to give me some sanity… It’s been wonderful to have somewhere to see familiar faces and have interesting discussions - thank you very much, GGI.”

“It’s been a really interesting two-year journey. Right at the beginning imposter syndrome was very strong as we redefined the role of the NED. Now, as we try to balance going back to the office, it’s a real juggle. The frontline staff and execs are still under considerable pressure and we’re very respectful of that but we’ve also got to get in to listen to issues to do our risk assessment well.”

“During the heat of the pandemic we became very inwardly focused, making sure we were doing the right things for our patients and our staff. What we missed was where we were in comparison to the region… we forgot to look at benchmarking data. We thought we were doing really well but when we looked at the data, we realised we had a way to go and had to put in an additional recovery programme.”

“We’re all still very stressed and frontline staff are still very challenged. We need to keep wellbeing at the front and centre of what we do to ensure our staff are well looked after and they maintain their resilience because this is going to carry on for another year.”

“We might be coming out of the Covid pandemic – maybe – but we’re going into an urgent and emergency care pandemic, we’re going into an elective pandemic, and we’re going into a financing pandemic. So the reality we’ve been working in – all the unknowns and all the pressure – that’s our reality for a long time to come. The consequences are going to be much more hard-hitting, much more painful and much more difficult to deal with than the Covid pandemic ever was. So when we come to board, where do we focus? Because every one of these issues is a wicked issue in itself and it’s got burning, risky realities – and if we deal with one, another is going to lose out.”

These meetings are by invitation and are open to all NHS non-executives directors, chairs and associate non-executive directors of NHS providers. Others may attend by special invitation.

If you have any comments, questions or suggestions about these webinars, please contact: events@good-governance.org.uk