BBC Newsnight – a statement from GGI

20 July 2023

On Wednesday 19 July, BBC Newsnight broadcast a series of allegations against the Good Governance Institute, and specifically its role in 2019’s well-led review of University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust.

GGI is disappointed by the standard of reporting in these allegations, which contained considerable inaccuracies and in all cases are without merit. We are further disappointed by the Newsnight team interviewing witnesses from gossip websites, or who were otherwise entirely unrelated to the review process, in a bid to add weight to these false or misleading claims.

We note that the BBC Newsnight team themselves stated on air that: “We found no evidence that the GGI did anything wrong in its assessment of UHB.” This was further supported by NHS England, who told the show that funding for our UHB review was in line with public contracting regulations, and by UHB, who confirmed that the reason GGI was chosen to conduct the well-led review was due to our understanding of how the trust and wider NHS functions.

Reacting to Wednesday’s programme, GGI Chief Executive Andrew Corbett-Nolan said: “The allegations made by BBC’s Newsnight team yesterday evening are as mystifying as they are demonstrably false.

“In attempting to make a story about the serious issue of governance and management within the NHS, Newsnight have wrongly and irresponsibly seized upon a series of mistruths related to our own practice.

“Not only was this an ill thought-out and false attack on a team that has worked for 15 years to support the NHS, but sadly it also involved the BBC wasting NHS time and resources, and ignored the vital work that is ongoing across the NHS to improve its governance and efficiency.

“Among many other things, the work of GGI saves NHS organisations considerable amounts of time and money. At one client alone, our work to make governance leaner resulted in savings worth in excess of £2m per year in executive, director and senior clinician time.

“We remain committed to supporting our NHS through a period of unprecedented difficulty and change, bringing our expertise to bear in a fair and transparent manner. We are proud of our work to date and look forward to future endeavours enhancing governance and management practices across the NHS.”

Despite the pain caused by this highly personal attack, our staff and everyone associated with GGI remain committed to our core values and will continue to work with passion and commitment in upholding the virtues of good governance. We are, and will remain, dedicated to our work championing the interests of people who rely on good public services.

Notes to editors

Our mission

The Good Governance Institute exists to create a fairer, better world. We do this by supporting those who lead the organisations that are most integral to the success and wellbeing of our communities.

Since 2009 we have been helping empower leaders of organisations to reach their full potential, build fair systems that consider all, use evidence, be guided by a strong moral code and take the best decisions for those they serve.

Good governance of all organisations, from the smallest charity to the greatest public institution, benefits society as a whole. It helps to build a sustainable, better future for all.

The work of the Good Governance Institute is supported and resourced by GGI Development and Research LLP, which is an ethical consultancy. The Good Governance Institute does not undertake direct commercial work itself.

GGI would like to put on record the following responses to the allegations made by the Newsnight team:

Newsnight claim that the Good Governance Institute is a ‘shell company’ with no real purpose or activities

This is untrue. The institute is properly constituted as a not-for-profit and does not trade or involve itself in any commercial activity, all of which is managed by the consultancy, which then provides the resources for the institute’s programme of work. The institute has for many years been registered in Ireland. We believe our website and other documents make that clear. This is not at all an unusual practice – several of the Big 4 do their good works through what they term ‘institutes’ – the only difference being that they have not registered their ‘institutes’ anywhere.

The Good Governance Institute, as is manifestly clear, has a vibrant, significant not-for-profit programme of events, publications and networks all of which are provided free of charge and supported – transparently – by resources provided by GGI Development and Research LLP. Each year thousands of people use the institute’s publications or attend our events.

In 2022 alone, more than 5,600 people registered for 162 GGI events, we hosted our eighth Festival of Governance, launched season 1 and 2 of The Public Good podcast, and published more than 90 articles on topics as diverse as the birth of integrated care systems, the reimagining of primary care and lean governance practices.

We are very clear that the institute itself is not commercial and does not charge fees. Equally, we are very clear that the resources for this work come either from GGI Development and Research LLP or are freely provided by volunteers.

Newsnight claim that Companies House has written a warning letter to GGI Development and Research LLP about the use of the word ‘institute’

This is untrue. GGI has been proactively in touch with Companies House, who did say they had been made aware that the word ‘institute’ was being used but were unaware of the complete picture as they had not been informed that this referred to a properly incorporated institute registered in Ireland. GGI is working with Companies House to check that they, like us, are satisfied that a proper distinction is transparent between the not-for-profit institute and the commercial company that resources it.

Newsnight claim that Good Governance Institute Chief Executive Andrew Corbett-Nolan represented himself as a doctor at various conferences

This is untrue. Conference organisers at one event in Milan inappropriately titled Andrew Corbett-Nolan and another GGI member of staff as ‘Dr.’. But this is a common mistake – examination of the conference programme reveals at least five people inappropriately titled ‘Dr.’ GGI meanwhile, represented our CEO as follows:

Newsnight’s selective and targeted approach was demonstrated when the programme zoomed in on the mistitling by the organiser of the 2017 conference when GGI’s own slide showing no such mistitling was also in plain view.

Finally, Newsnight shared footage of an unrelated academic alleging that external consultancies make a market for themselves by giving NHS providers favourable reviews.

GGI completely rejects the manner in which the programme suggested that any of our reviews – and in particular the well-led review at UHB – fall under this category (if indeed it exists). To repeat Newsnight’s own statement from earlier in the programme: “We found no evidence that the GGI did anything wrong in its assessment of UHB”.

When we review our clients’ activities, the conclusions we reach and the recommendations we make are honest, evidence-based and not always easy to hear. We are in a unique position to make a real contribution to improving the service provided by NHS organisations and we do not take that privilege lightly. Contrary to Newsnight’s suggestion, it makes no commercial sense whatsoever merely to tell clients what they want to hear.

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