NHS boards play a key role in shaping the strategy, vision and purpose, hold the organisation to account for the delivery of strategy and ensure value for money. The board is also responsible for assuring that risks to a trust and the public are managed and mitigated effectively. Non-executive directors play a key role in boards governing effectively, and in so doing build patient, public and stakeholder confidence that their health and healthcare are in safe hands. These are fantastic roles which directly contribute to the quality of care provided to patients and to the wellbeing of staff in NHS organisations, bringing diverse views and challenges, and helping to set the tone for organisational culture. It is essential that candidates applying for these roles live in or have strong connections with the area where the vacancy is as NHS boards need to be representative of the community and population they serve.
We offer resources to support your thinking as you consider whether a non-executive role in an NHS trust may be right for you. We also offer support to prepare candidates to apply for Non-executive Director roles and to help improve your chances of success in a very competitive environment.
Understanding the role
- Contact someone who already holds a board role, have an exploratory conversation to better understand the role and the working of a board; they may offer advice on your application.
- Visit the new chairs and non-executive directors – NHS senior leadership onboarding and support (leadershipacademy.nhs.uk) to hear from people doing the role and also to see an overview of resources to support newly appointed NHS Non-executive Directors.
- Watch a number of Public Trust Board meetings – like Northampton General Hospital for example. Just search for live streamed public trust board meetings or even search your own local trust to see if they’ve adopted this approach.
- The Seacole Group: Becoming a NED includes a great animation based on tips from their members. There are also various guides and advice gleaned from various sources.
Applications for non-executive director roles are very competitive so it is useful to add elements to your existing experience – you could think about:
- How you move from an operational delivery perspective to one of constructive challenge and assurance.
- How you use different data sources to help you understand risk and assurance.
- You may wish to engage in other smaller organisations with similar duties and responsibilities as a Non-executive Director, for example a school governor – this independent viewpoint in managing a school, combined with your business experience, may make you a more well-rounded Non-executive Director candidate.
- You might consider becoming a Non-executive Director or trustee at a charity or not-for-profit organisation. This will demonstrate your ability to commit, as well as provide valuable experience.
- If you are new to the NHS it might be helpful to access the Senior Leaders onboarding website which has a resource on Understanding the NHS.
- The King’s Fund is an independent charitable organisation working to improve health and care in England – it has interesting resources and signposting to help you understand more about the NHS
- Read theNHS Long Term Plan to understand the strategic direction of the our long term plan
- Visiting NHS Trust websites and looking at the “About Us” section will show you board papers and the biographies of people on the board, giving interesting insight into backgrounds of people in roles
- The Healthy NHS Board – A useful document that sets out the guiding principles that will allow NHS board members to understand the:
- Collective role of the board including effective governance in relation to the wider health and social care system
- Activities and approaches that are most likely to improve board effectiveness in governing well
- Contribution expected of them as individual board members
- The NHS as an anchor institution is ‘rooted in place’ with significant assets and spending power, which can be strategically and intentionally managed to help address local social, economic and environmental priorities. Working in partnership with communities, other anchors and organisations at a local, system and regional level is essential to achieving these ambitions. The main function of the NHS is to provide a range of health services; however it can also play a more active role to tackle health inequalities by addressing the physical, social and environmental factors which can cause ill health, often referred to as the wider determinants of health.
Keeping in touch
Please be aware that the Senior Appointments and Assessment Team is responsible for appointing Chairs and Non-executive Director to NHS Trusts. Although the Team advertise for some Foundation Trusts and other NHS organisations we do not capture them all. Look at your local Foundation Trust website(s) and sign up as a member, and look on NHS Jobs for further potential opportunities.
Other public appointment vacancies
All Public Appointments (across other departments as well as health) are advertised on the Cabinet Office website and are featured in the Public Appointments newsletter which is published fortnightly. To sign up to the newsletter register here.