NHS Code of Governance roundtable event

01 July 2022

NHS England issued a draft update to the NHS Code of Governance in May for consultation, due to close on Friday (8 July).

GGI has been preparing its thinking on this, and there are still two places available for an informal roundtable session at 18.00 on Tuesday 5 July to discuss the code at the GGI workspace at London Bridge (pizzas and wine promised – please contact GGI’s Rosie Atack if you are interested in joining us).

There are three elements to the draft code that interest GGI especially:

  1. The draft code strongly reinforces classic corporate governance, which GGI supports, but the draft emphasises governance structures rather than required impact. GGI always emphasises that governance should have meaningful outcomes, as articulated by Professor Mervyn King, who talks of ethical culture, better control, value creation and legitimacy as the impact governance should achieve
  2. Board composition is emphasised by the draft. It sets specific targets for BAME membership of boards. GGI’s work on board composition emphasises that boards should appoint to the whole board team rather than an individual director position, and take into account skills (competence to sit on a public board), experience (as needed by the board that matches the organisation’s strategy) and diversity (overall board composition to create visible legitimacy, avoid group think and contribute to the pipeline of experience members of public boards). GGI would like to extend this to include a fourth dimension around personal attributes to reflect the Nolan Principles and Standards in Public Life as integral to board composition and not something to be taken for granted.
  3. Leadership of the internal culture. A significant learning from the pandemic, and emphasised in the Messenger Report, is attention to the internal culture and the draft code emphasis the board’s responsibility to understand, monitor and lead the organisation’s culture. Fine words but potentially glib without thinking through exactly what is expected of boards in terms of how a board, as opposed to the executive leadership, appropriately leads and monitors culture. GGI has been doing significant work to look at board contribution to ethical culture as part of preparing for our Festival of Governance 2022 which has the theme of considering fairness as a potential eighth Nolan Principle.

In short, a code itself may describe the structures and processes of a board but the important issue is to consider impact, a theme taken up by our chief executive in a new article this week.

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