11 March - non-executive directors - with Mike Knapton

11 March 2022

This week’s non-executive directors webinar opened in conversation with Mike Knapton, non-executive director at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Mike said: “The business of having a GP on the hospital board is interesting and represents a commitment by the trust not to see itself as an ivory tower of excellence that needs to focus on its own needs.

“Most [junior doctors] won't pay much attention to what goes on at board meetings but how do you connect the board with frontline staff? Our chief executive does a Zoom meeting on a Tuesday morning and about 300 staff log in and that is a way of connecting.

“The other thing I do as a NED is go on ward rounds with the chief nurse to meet people. I thought staff would be too busy but it was actually extremely welcomed and showed how putting a face to the board helps. It gave me an opportunity to see how the board can help and it showed how much people appreciate a simple thank you when under stress. You can go onto the maternity units and see a midwife that qualified two years ago; she’s understaffed and was put in a position where she was clinically exposed too early on. She gets stressed she goes off sick, mental health issues are one of the biggest challenges. You can and should raise this at the board and humanize the board data.

“Staff at the front line need to feel connected but you need to get information from the front line coming back into the board. It won’t be informed by the real insights of what’s going on.”

“We are simply not going to sustain our heath service until the funding is rebalanced and there is proper investment into primary and community care. The big thing we're talking about in the moment is virtual wards. Shifting the care is only going to work if you shift the resources.

“You need to bring together the long-term financial plan for the system alongside the system strategy. In my view we need to quickly establish priorities and then develop clinical pathways and change the way we care for patients. The ICB needs to crack these up and get these embedded in the first few months. The clinical voice can be heard in all three areas.”

Also overheard during the discussion:

“There is this tension between do we identify leaders early on and have a formal training programme along those lines or do we say you have to change your metal as a clinician and gain the credibility which is crucial to success in leadership? I think it’s a really good tension.

“There is still the notion of the dark side. If clinicians are seen as not really being proper clinicians because they’ve opted for a management role early on, they will be felt as less accepted by clinicians as they get more senior.”

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