17 December - non-executive directors

20 December 2021

Looking back on the summer of 2022... no this is not a typo!

In last week’s non-executive directors webinar, GGI CEO Andrew Corbett-Nolan fast-forwarded ahead to the summer of 2022 with our non-executive director guests. With the benefit of foresight rather than hindsight, they plotted a course together about what they would like to achieve by the summer.

Andrew Corbett-Nolan:

“I have thought about the topic really in three areas. There are some things which I think are much longer term issues for boards of all kinds, there are some around the place the NHS will be in and then finally there are some things around individuals – for example, what we will be pleased we have done as non-execs and chairs.

“The board is the organisation’s conscience as well as commander. As we entered this pandemic, boards needed to take an ethical, moral position on things and they need to use their leadership role to establish what type of organisation one is in terms of a conscience so that the board is a place where an organisation can establish what is right and what is wrong for them. As the health service is pushed into a tighter and tighter place, the board being this conscience is really important.

“The second thing is to understand how much independence a board actually has. This means to establish what is within a board’s orbit and what isn’t, which is changing with systems and the central control the government is exerting. Boards will need to work out how independent they are and where they can actually add value and what areas would this be futile.

“We can anticipate that by the time we get to next summer, money, targets and capacity are going to be very apparent. There will also of course be issues around people so there will be a focus on solving that. I can’t see a way where the next six months isn’t going to be characterised by quite a lot of involvement from the private sector and I think NHS boards will need to think through how they can make that work. I can’t envision a way forward without help from the private sector.

“In a public service like the NHS, legitimacy comes from doing the right thing. Career NHS managers are under enormous pressure to think about their careers and it is the board that can provide that sense of moral compass to balance this.

“In June/July I anticipate that boards will benefit from recognising that they are there as the organisations conscious. Executives will appreciate these conversations as over the next six months which will be particularly hard, they will be glad to have this conscious behind them.”

Also overheard:

“I feel that in making a success of delivering in the pandemic as we possibly can, we’ve had to put extra time and energy into our workforce. I’ve never known our connection with our workforce to be as strong as it is at the moment. On top of that we’ve been building trust and engagement with our stakeholders. We’ve shown that we can do all of this and this gives us a strong foundation to move forwards.”

“There is fatigue and there is weariness but because all of these things have been working well and we have strong connections, these are enabling us to carry through.”

“We need to understand much more about how we can influence the whole of the 'green' agenda across systems including design of transport systems.”

“Morality in a time of uncertainty is a lot trickier. Even achieving least harm to fewest numbers is difficult to predict. There should be a shift from individualistic patient focus to population health and how to bring frontline staff along with that.”

“Notions around compassionate leadership, kindness and saying to our work colleagues that is okay not to be okay is fine. We need to make sure that our executive colleagues are addressing these areas.”

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