There are two significant trends in the appointment of chairs and non-executives in the NHS that are affecting the recruitment of these vital roles, says Rhiannon Smith
We know non-executive directors and chairs play a pivotal role in helping NHS trusts survive and thrive in an increasingly tough environment.
They take equal responsibility alongside other directors for board decisions and for their organisation’s success in improving the care it provides.
‘Non-execs are the eyes and ears of the outsider with privileged access to the inside of the hospital’
Jocelyn Cornwell, programme director for the King’s Fund, describes non-execs as the eyes and ears of the outsider with privileged access to the inside of the hospital.
However, despite their value, we have recently noticed two significant trends in the appointment of chairs and non-execs in the NHS that are worth highlighting.
First, we have seen a decline in the number of candidates. The number of applicants for chairs has declined more dramatically than non-execs, but the downward trend is significant.
Fewer applicants mean a smaller talent pool.
‘We should be concerned about the impact this will have on NHS’
This results in less choice for NHS trusts, which in turn means having to settle for a candidate who might otherwise not have made the final stage of the selection process.
Given the importance of chairs and non-executives some may feel we should be concerned about the impact this will have on NHS.
Second, we have noticed that increasingly boards are asking us to put forward candidates with NHS experience.
The feedback we get is that boards feel they need non-executives who can hit the ground running and who have the experience of working with clinicians so they can understand the questions they need to ask of the executive team.
‘Boards feel they need non-executives who can hit the ground running’
In recent years we have seen a definite split between the executive management team, consisting of individuals who have worked in the NHS, and the board consisting of those with wider public sector and private sector experience.
This trend towards those candidates who have been working in the NHS could be welcomed by some because it starts to bring a more balanced feel to trust management.
Rhiannon Smith is a partner and head of executive search for Hunter Healthcare