More than two thirds of NHS directors believe their non-executives do not have enough time for their roles, a survey has found.

An Association of Chartered Certified Accountants report for the Department of Health, published last week, said directors thought there was “little scope for additional involvement” once they had performed duties such as attending meetings.

It said a fifth of directors who responded, mainly chairs, chief executives and finance directors, thought non-executives did not have enough financial knowledge, and a tenth that they had too little business knowledge.

The association recommended regular reviews of board composition to ensure they include financial and legal expertise and cross-training among boards to ensure all members “understand the financial implications of their decision making”.

However, the proportion of directors complaining about non-executives’ lack of finance and business knowledge had significantly dropped from the previous year’s survey.

The association praised the Appointments Commission for improving procedures and training. The commission’s health and social care commissioner for London Ann Lloyd said boards would have enough time if they “focus on what is important”.

Ms Lloyd said high profile performance management such as world class commissioning assurance, and regulatory reports that had criticised boards, such as that into Mid Staffordshire foundation trust, had increased pressure.

“This is all highly public stuff and boards are having to show they are taking action where there has been a question [about performance].”

Ms Lloyd said patient safety and quality should not suffer in favour of business and finance.

“We have got to strive to get a balanced board where everybody understands the basics and then there are some people who have very specific skills.”