Healthcare has become a sector unrivalled by any other in terms of its public and political profile. And at the heart of all the change taking place is good governance, risk management, board assurance and effective leadership.

Our recent sector wide survey highlights just how much NHS organisations now expect of their non-executive board members. It is no longer enough just to bring the right professional credentials. Board members also have to be passionate and compassionate ambassadors for good patient care and be accountable if it all goes wrong. They also need to have the time to do the job properly; not just to attend meetings, but to know the detail of their organisations well enough to offer real challenge and insight.

‘The onus is on all of us to make sure the personal qualities of those we appoint to NHS boards are a part of the selection criteria’

We don’t need to write a new job description for the role, but we do need to seek out a new breed of non-executive director with the confidence, self-awareness and commitment to take on the job in today’s climate, particularly given the weight of responsibility that now rests on their shoulders.

So where will our future non-executive directors come from? As search professionals we have a duty to identify both the obvious and less obvious markets that will yield new talent for our clients.

Personal values

We search extensively across markets such as transport, financial services and utilities where the public and political profiles, and issues around risk and regulation, are comparable. But while senior leaders in these sectors might well bring the right professional credentials, the truth is that no sector breeds compassion and personal values.

The onus is on all of us to make sure that the personal qualities of those we appoint to NHS boards are as much a part of the selection criteria as the achievements they list of their CVs.

Carmel Gibbons is partner and head of health practice at Odgers Berndtson


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