Published: 17/03/2005, Volume II5, No. 5947 Page 20
Ian Brown, trustee director, Bridgewater Housing Ltd
The self-satisfied body language of Sir William Wells on the front cover and the interview (pages 18-19, 3 February) invite the conclusion that all will be well with failing non-executive appointments; Sir William is on the case.
'Recruitment is the most immediate issue, ' the NHS Appointments Commission chair opines and 'poor pay makes nonexecutives difficult to recruit.' He talks about 'patchy' applications for non-executive director posts and threatens reprisals if they do not 'come up to snuff'. His big idea is to introduce training to combat the culture of 'silent stooges' and 'favoured sons and daughters'.
Meanwhile my aspirations for a non-executive position in the NHS remain frustrated. Eight years ago, while on the governing body of a further education college, a colleague fired me with her enthusiasm (as an NHS trust non-executive and chair) to attempt a return to the health service where I was employed for six years in the 1960s.
I responded to national advertising and passed the NHS open selection board for trust non-executives in January 1999. In preparation for an eventual appointment, I undertook self-financed training with the King's Fund and Healthcare Financial Management Association and shadowed board meetings of my local hospital and primary care groups.
During this time my corporate governance career in the public and not-for-profit sectors included appointments as a charity chair, university governor and housing non-executive director. Yet my latest application for a non-executive position five months ago with my local primary care trust produced the response that 'other candidates better demonstrated an ability to contribute to the work of the board'. Once again, I was not invited for interview.
I find it awfully hard to reconcile Sir William's concerns about 'patchy' applications for non-executive posts with my corporate governance experience, training and qualifications as a chartered director and fellow of the Institute of Directors. Does he mean me? The evidence suggests he does.
But, if the quality of NHS nonexecutives is as dire as he maintains, surely it should be for Sir William and his commission to 'fall on their swords' for failing to 'come up to snuff', not just the hapless appointees of the dysfunctional procurement process for which they are jointly accountable.
After eight years, seven applications and two unsuccessful interviews, I am calling it a day with the NHS. My talents, such as they are, are sought after elsewhere in the non-health public sectors, but I regret that I will not be able to make the contribution to my old employer that I desired.