11 November - Mental Health Network - governance during the COVID-19 pandemic

12 November 2021

This week’s session included a discussion about how far chairs and boards would go against national policies if they felt it was in the interest of their communities or staff.

Opening the discussion, GGI executive partner Mark Butler said that acting in the best interest of their constitution and mission can bring public institutions into conflict with political bodies. How do they navigate this in a way that keeps relationships positive and productive? How publicly would organisations express this divergence and what is the process for deciding this?

Overheard during the discussion:

“This is a discussion we have had as a board, as well as how we can share and track this through our audit trail. Governors are key stakeholders in this conversation. As a board, we recognise that we have legal responsibilities, but also a responsibility to make decisions we feel are right and which we feel confident about being held accountable for. The regulator is another factor in this discussion; there will be cases when trusts will challenge the regulator on how they work when it has a negative impact on reshaping and reforming services. In a new landscape, there is a potential conflict between the new system and the role of foundation trusts, and legal responsibilities through this, for example around commissioning and delivering services.”

“Part of the role of chairs is to remind all that they are a sovereign board, and there can’t be a defence of ‘doing what you’re told’. I feel there is a role as a board in protecting staff and patients, alongside amplifying voices as well as pushing for policy change.”

“Mental health and learning disability trusts have a different role, as there is ignorance and discrimination against people with serious mental health illness, so the challenges they face can be different which means the board need to respond differently. He thinks emphasising who you are accountable to is important to reflect on and respond to as a board.”

“We shouldn’t separate the discussions and decisions taken at the board from what clinicians have to do. Doing the right thing can be a good stance to take, but there is then a need to be held accountable for the action you took. This can be seen in maverick staff members, and knowing when and how to step in and out of expected care and decision-making. There needs to be a balance between saying things are wrong, but also knowing when to do this, providing solutions and helping resolve.”

“Ethical committees have been highly valued during the pandemic, but it will be important for these to adapt and evolve as the landscape changes.”

These meetings are by invitation only. For further details, visit our events page.

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