NHS Senior Leadership Onboarding and Support

Chairs and Non-Executive Directors

As a chair or a non-executive director of an NHS organisation or Integrated Care Board, you bring a huge range of expertise to the board you have joined. Balancing the system and operational focus of the CEO and executive directors; chairs and non-executive directors bring an external perspective, creating a very different dynamic and offering a unique perspective towards, corporate governance, risk management and succession planning, population health, amongst other areas. 

It is anticipated, like other newly appointed board leaders, that you will access the resources of the six main themes on the landing page for your general onboarding support. You will wish to fully explore the Understanding the NHS and governance theme, which includes  key policy documents such as the Long Term Plan which broadly sets the environment in which your board will operate within. It is essential to understand not only your own organisation but the system you operate within and there are lots of resources in the Building trusted relationships with partners and communities theme to support your learning. You may also find the digital resources and social media page useful.

Support for current Chairs and Non Executive Directors – helpful information on values and behaviours, declaration of interests and visiting guidelines.

Report: Non-executive directors and integrated care systems | NHS Confederation

NHS Futures Platform Non Executive Director Community The space is managed by the NHS Confederation and NHS England and is for NEDs, Chairs and Lay members with an emphasis on system level thinking.

Leadership Framework for Health Inequalities Improvement | NHS Confederation – Oct 2021 – Support and guidance for chairs and non-executive directors to help lead stronger NHS action on health inequalities.

Local induction for new chairs and non-executive directors – helpful information on meeting key people, key activities, considerations for new chairs and non-executive directors and useful websites.

Terms and conditions of NHS trust chairs and non-executive directors – helpful information on remuneration and expenses, indemnity, resignations, suspension and removal from office

NHS Confederation Non Executive Leaders Network

A framework for conducting annual appraisals of NHS provider chairs

Non-executive performance appraisal: a good practice guide – Key principles and tips for conducting appraisals of non-executive directors.

Blog: “Developing NHS Trust Chief Executives – where do Chairs fit in?” Kings Fund, Sept 2018

Though aimed at chairs and non executives, the resources to the side and the top tips below are also useful for Governing Body lay members and Primary Care Network clinical directors.

Top tips for Chairs and NEDs

  • Take the time to get to know your organisation – history, challenges and opportunities, think about what is important to the people in your local community
  • Take time the time to get to know your executive and non executive colleagues
  • Hone skills on challenging constructively to ensure you and others are reflecting on experience and improving.
  • Be mindful of the public context you are working in – preparation and discussion prior is key.
  • Take the opportunity to meet patients and carers; the mantra in the NHS is “ward to board” for a reason.
  • Triangulate information – what are sources telling you over time and how do they relate to each other, use Making Data Count resources – Strengthening your decisions.
  • Connect with the workforce whenever possible – in the café, on visits… stay curious.
  • Focus on asking what this means for patients and workforce to boil down large quantities of data and papers.
  • Make sure that there is real multidisciplinary and clinical input – in the best organisations, front line teams and clinicians have perspectives that unlock the answers to problems
  • Celebrate the work your organisation does, be an ambassador out in the community and when you hear about problems or complaints get as full a picture as possible.
  • Ask a member of staff or a service user to mentor you to gain insight and perspectives – see the reverse mentoring resources on this site
  • If you are a chair or non-executive director in a Foundation Trust – take time to get to know your Lead Governor and attend the Council of Governors meetings

Top tips for managing your own learning

  • Meet your mentor before your meetings to identify key issues and requirements. Following the meeting consider what went well and what could be even better, constructive challenge and clarity of decision making.
  • Make sure that you get the opportunity to learn from both the executive and non-executive team members.
  • Remember that the non-executive director role is all about influencing and not doing. Use your time to hone your influencing skills. Practice asking open questions to get full answers.
  • Start a portfolio of achievements and development needs to support appraisal and personal development.
  • Focus on your accountability while taking a strategic view. Resist the urge to get sucked into every issue or you will spread yourself too thin.