21 May 2021 – NHS Non-Executive Directors webinar

21 May 2021

This week’s session opened in conversation with GGI chief executive Andrew Corbett-Nolan, who talked about the future role of NHS non-executive directors, which he described as ‘pivotal’.

Andrew said: “When we see the discussion papers on the restructuring of the NHS, I don’t think non-execs should feel threatened but just be ready to think differently. The ability for boards to hold things to account, form things like audit committees, and the talent they bring to the table means that there will be a very strong future for non-execs. Particularly after the last 15 months when in some way there has been a perception that boards and non-execs have been less important; actually, the reverse is coming true.

“There is a big job to do to help executives understand how to use non-execs and their boards as they have so much to offer.”


“The more you do of this sort of work, the more you must be aware that every board is different. You need to do a diagnostic and get to know the board and the context. There are however some common syndromes. One example is that when you put the board under the pressure of regulator interest you often don’t get the best sort of outcome. If you scare the executives indicating that their careers may be in danger and the NEDs are put under pressure, they are drawn to wanting to see more information, more short-term solutions. This engenders in non-execs the idea that they need to do something and should do something.”

“The other end of the scale is where the non-execs find it difficult to get in as the executive team has things under control and everything is going well. In these cases, it can work well for a time, but NEDs need to be allowed to ask the right questions and if they don’t problems will happen later.”

“Some of the organisations that have really flipped what they do, are some that have really had significant problems and issues and others go through huge transformations that have been extremely well run for decades.”

Also overheard during today’s webinar:

“There has been an insidious shift around appointing chairs with a big NHS background and therefore these appointments becoming more political than ever before, which can sometimes be a good thing, but I worry about it as you should have diversity of backgrounds.”

“Diversity of board composition brings with it an injection of different thinking, which is a value non-NHS NEDs can bring. Connection to the community it serves is also so important. There isn’t a one size fits all for boards. They need to be agile and able to do both; wary of regulation and compliance but also wanting a new and transformative approach.”

“We miss half the board if we don’t recognise executives as board members. Something for the future is about how we create the whole board to have that recognition. The board also needs to be clear about its purpose.”

“Where governance is going is that if we don’t act sharply, it will just go into porridge. We need to keep our eye on the goal; legitimacy in decision making, better control, added value and an ethical culture.”

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. For further details, visit our website https://www.good-governance.org.uk/events/.

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

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