25 November 2022 - NED webinar - the final session

01 December 2022

Last week’s session was the final one of a series that began at the start of the first lockdown in March 2020.

It opened in conversation with Karen Daber on the theme Mission impossible, realising the full value of the non-executive director in the NHS.

Karen is a former police officer – in a 30-year career with the police she reached the rank of assistant chief constable. During that time she was chosen to work on numerous projects, including developing and delivering a national code of ethics for policing in 2014.

Karen said she started as an NHS non-exec in 2020 following some disjointed interactions her family had with the NHS through some serious illnesses.

She said: “I have a tendency to jump into things without much thought but when it was suggested that I apply I thought that has touched me and it’s something I want to do so I applied and was honoured to be accepted by Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust.

“Then I had to get my head around how you really hold directors on the trust to account. My whole career with the trust has been via Zoom, which is a very quirky, unreal environment in which to build relationships and have that influence. It’s only in recent months that we’ve started to get back to face-to-face meetings and I suppose for me the question is, how do you influence, how do you bring that expertise to bear to make a difference at the trust and for the people of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough?

“I suppose the question is this: is how we nudge and build relationships good enough? It’s so critical that we do something and make a difference because this is real, this is people’s lives, this affects more than just the individual who’s carted off in the ambulance. Is it good enough, how we as non-execs are operating, or is it a mission impossible?”

Karen said she received no training for her new NED role – “How do you train a non-exec?” – but praised her executive and non-executive colleagues, who were always available to provide advice and support.

Talking about the time commitment required of NEDs, Karen said: “It’s definitely not three days a month, not by the time you’ve ploughed through board papers of up to 179 pages – read it, understand it, formulate your questions, do some cross-referencing, go back to old papers. At the moment it’s feeling a bit like a full-time job.”

Also overheard during the session

“Governance is a subject that is both academic and professional – it is both an art and science.”

“It is the assurance vs reassurance piece that concerns me. I also joined my trust during Covid. I try to get assurance from other sources – speaking with service users, governors, workforce through my involvement as EDI champion. However I feel the board does not always receive and discuss the most pertinent information.”

“We were fortunate to have an early return to face2face meetings because of our availability of safe spaces for social distancing, mask wearing and so on during our board meetings. This made such a difference to board development and board relationships – we have a structured approach to clinical service visits that works well. It’s a joint NED /ED approach.”

“We were fortunate to have an early return to face2face meetings because of our availability of safe spaces for social distancing, mask wearing and so on during our board meetings – this made such a difference to board development and board relationships – we have a structured approach to clinical service visits that works well – it’s a joint NED /ED approach.”

Au revoir - but not goodbye

Some guests reflected on the end of the non-executive director webinar series:

“I would like to thank GGI team for all the excellent webinars over the two years; they have given me a great insight into the role of NEDs and has certainly helped my personal development.”

“Many thanks for these meetings over the past two-and-a-half years – it has been brilliant to virtually network and hear of the difference of experiences we have shared – thank you!”

“Thanks to everyone at GGI for an excellent series of webinars. I have found them really useful. It was especially helpful in view of restrictive access to colleagues.”

“Really great series of seminars. It’s been great to have a safe space in which to exchange experiences and make our individual / trust feel shared – thank you GGI.”

Closing the series, GGI CEO Andrew Corbett-Nolan said: “I’d like to thank all of those of you who contributed so willingly. You’ve made this space your own. None of this would have happened without the GGI events team, headed by Roisin. But the biggest tribute must go to Usman, who has held this together for two-and-a-half years, and has developed a unique style and knows you all well. It’s not easy to consistently hold and audience, add value, and prompt discussion. So an enormous thank-you to Usman.”

Looking back on the beginning of the series at the start of the first pandemic lockdown, Andrew said: “GGI became virtual in 24 hours. On the [following Friday] we had the very first one of our sessions – just four days into a national lockdown. There was a real sense that this medium and that space were bringing together quite shell shocked people who were worried about their trusts but didn’t want to disturb their busy executives.”

Since then, Andrew said, there have been 116 webinars attended by 4,020 people and 167 contributors. The most popular event was called ‘build back fairer and levelling up’, and more than 85% of attendees rated the sessions four or five stars out of five.

He said: “We’re changing the format now. We’re going to once per month, in-depth sessions. The next one is in January and there will be a breakout session for non-executives, and you’re all invited to a once-per-month non-executive Zoom meeting where we can discuss that programme and how we can develop it. We hope you’ll persevere with us because the insight you have given us has enabled us to be very useful to the NHS and beyond.

“Let’s close by thanking you all. NEDs are a huge resource to the NHS, sometimes recognised, and sometimes you have to accept that you won’t be thanked for your value. But we’d like to thank you. So let me bid you adieu, au revoir but not goodbye.”

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