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Boards with more doctors help deliver better care

Patient satisfaction and morbidity rates could be improved if more clinicians were appointed to NHS trust boards, new research indicates.

A report from Leeds University Business School suggests that non-clinicians continue to dominate health boards, despite efforts to increase participation among doctors and other clinicians.

Accountants and managers dominate English trust boards at present, with clinicians accounting for only 26 per cent of board members, the study finds.

While lowering morbidity rates among patients, satisfaction levels could also be raised if boards had better clinical representation, a research team led by Professor Ian Kirkpatrick reveals.

The study indicates that hospitals could stand a better chance of gaining a 4* (HC) rating if their trust boards included the likes of doctors.

It is hoped that the report from the business school could enhance the effectiveness of the health service, without the need for large-scale changes.

The report showed that clinical participation in board level management is low by international standards. On average clinicians make up just over a quarter of all board members (26.03 per cent) and doctors, 14 per cent in English NHS hospital trusts. Numbers have however increased slowly between 2006-2009.

More clinicians are likely to be on the boards of trusts where the CEO has a clinical background.

Increasing the number of doctors on boards significantly increases quality assessed in terms of Health Commission trust ratings, lower morbidity rates and increased patient satisfaction, the report also found, while there was evidence of a positive, but not clearly significant relationship between doctors on the board and financial ratings.

The number of board members with nursing and allied health professional backgrounds is less clearly associated with improved performance outcomes.

Readers' comments (5)

  • Please could you provide a link to the report. Thanks.

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  • Hi, you can find the report on the Centre for Innovation in Health Managment's website:

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  • The results of this research are to be welcomed.
    Clinicians in Trusts have long recognised that their boards have been dominated by non-clinicians, and consequently non-clinical issues have tended to dominate the Agendas.

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  • Did the research investigate whether having more patients on Trust boards would improve patient satisfaction and morbidity rates? If so, what were the results? If not, why not?

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  • Would having more Finance Directors on Boards improve the financial performance of Trusts?
    It is how Organisations are led, and what they prioritise and pay attention to that drives performance, not the number of any group sitting on it.

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