NHS Senior Leadership Onboarding and Support

Thinking of becoming a Chair or a Non-executive Director?

The importance and impact of chair and non-executive roles

Do you have a background and perspectives that could support the NHS in delivering safe high quality care and excellent experience to patients and populations?

There is emphatic evidence that diverse boards make the best decisions. We want to increase the diversity of our boards and particularly encourage interest from women, people from the local Black Asian and Minority Ethnic communities, LGBT communities, younger people and those with lived experience of disability, who we know are all under-represented in non executive director and chair roles.

Chairs and non-executive directors work in all kinds of NHS Trusts, from large acute trusts to mental health trusts to community services trusts. These are multi-million pound organisations with unitary boards of executives and non-executives, who together are responsible for the whole organisation.

There are a huge range of non-executive skills and backgrounds which are tremendously helpful to NHS Boards, including traditional skillsets such as finance, legal, corporate governance, HR and OD, clinical and regulatory. However, many other skills and experience are equally valuable, including: IT and digital, housing, property and estate management, strategy and innovation, marketing and customer experience, communications and PR, local government, lived experience as a patient, carer or service user and experience representing local communities. It is well evidenced that diverse boards make the best decisions on behalf of their patients and service users. If you have experience of working on or with boards, and have a skill or lived experience to bring to help NHS boards operate effectively on behalf of their populations, don’t be afraid to get involved.

Trust chairs will usually work 3 – 4 days a week on behalf of the trust, although chairs may not need to be physically at the trust for all of this time, as their duties will also include reading papers and speaking to other board members.  Non-executive director roles typically ask for a commitment of 3 – 4 days a month, depending on the trust and whether you choose to take on a Committee Chair role in addition to the basic non-executive director role. If you are already a non-executive director in an NHS trust you may be interested in the Aspirant Chair programme.

The videos below give insight into how rewarding and fulfilling these roles are. Find out about the non-executive director role and why you might consider it, with some pointers on applying on these links. If you are considering becoming an NHS trust chair you may be interested in the competency framework for the role.

To be successful in your application it is likely that you will already have some board level experience. Looking at these videos and links you will give you an idea of how good a fit your current experience is for the role of a chair or non-executive director. To improve your chances of being shortlisted you may want to expand your knowledge and experience by:

  • Attending your local trust board meetings as an observer – this is a great way to see what the key issues affecting the trust are and to see the board members in action, including how they respond to and, particularly from a non-executive perspective, positively challenge and work with the executive board members
  • Contacting an existing non-executive board member and seeking their advice on your journey
  • Taking up a volunteer role in local organisations, such as a charities
  • Becoming a governor at a foundation trust can also be a good starting point to building towards becoming a NED on a trust board

If you would like more information please email [email protected], Senior Non-executive Development Manager.

Current chair and non-executive vacancies

Being a Non-Executive – What you get out of it

Being a Non-Executive – The skills you bring

Being a Non-Executive Director – Stories from NHS Board members