Supporting foundation trust governors to maximise impact

14 June 2016

During the recent Volunteers Week we celebrated and raised awareness of the role of 4,500 foundation trust governors across England. Governors are a diverse group of people motivated to make a difference. Very typically governors bring a broad range of skills and experience to governing. They can also develop a range of skills and qualities through the role, which they then take back into their workplace or local communities.

As direct representatives of staff and public member interests they form an integral part of the governance structure that exists in all NHS foundation trusts. It is the governors' responsibility to represent their members’ interests, particularly in relation to the strategic direction of the Trust, providing two way communications with the Trust on issues emerging from their constituency. Governors do not undertake operational management of NHS foundation trusts; rather they provide appropriate challenge to the Board of Directors and collectively hold them to account for the Trust’s performance.

Changes in the NHS are affecting governors and at the same time raising their significance and importance

Foundation trusts are required by law to take steps to ensure that governors have the skills and knowledge they require to undertake their role. Research in the NHS and beyond shows the value of a thorough induction and an on-going programme of training and development through the governor’s term of office.  Equally important for governors are positive representation, constructive challenge, supportive behaviour and partnership working with their board. Boards also have a responsibility for setting the right organisational culture and providing financial, administrative and strategic support to the council of governors. 

NHS Providers provides a full support package of training, networking events, guidance documents and policy updates that aim to equip governors with the knowledge and skills required to fulfil their potential. Since its launch in May 2013, 97% of the 2,300 NHS governors that have attended GovernWell training courses would recommend them to other governors. Importantly, after attending training 90% of senior leaders within trusts noticed an improvement in governor knowledge and understanding and 90% improvement in skills.    

Changes in the NHS are affecting governors and at the same time raising their significance and importance. This increased emphasis comes in the context of financial difficulties, increases in demand and workforce issues. As a new era in the history of NHS reform begins, Volunteer’s Week celebrated the work of foundation trust governors who give their time, free of charge, to provide public accountability within foundation trusts; and, prompts a new call to action to ensure that quality training and on-going development should have a high priority to ensure that all foundation trust governors have that important capability.

Read our NHS governor stories.

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