This is an interesting article about the importance of Board diversity in the NHS. On paper, as with Board's everywhere it feels an important issue. Its importance to me , is however is very much negated by the relative impotence of Boards in the NHS in practice. In my view this is nothing to do with the quality of the people or indeed whether or not the Board is sufficiently diverse but largely due to the suffocating regime they work under. A really simple example, all public bodies have a duty to comply with HMRC's new requirements for dealing with personal service companies. This involves assessing individuals status in each organisations. Instead of leaving this to local professional judgement, the DH has waded in and instructed NHS bodies how to comply. This is minor stuff but across the NHS there are all sorts of compliance processes designed to feed the centre. NHS Boards also currently have the opt out of blaming the centre as an excuse for their own failings - very much like the media and some politicians have blamed the EU for what have been failures in political leadership by successive British Governments. We should set NHS Boards free to manage - so that they can be fully accountable for the services they deliver and their accountability to the local community where the real benefits of having a truly diverse Board can be properly realised.
What changes would you make to NHS boardrooms to make them more effective? I would make them more diverse. The more boards reflect the communities they operate in, the more they can achieve. In my experience, diverse boards have broader discussions, are less likely to fall victim to group think and are more energetic. This results in better decision making. Greater diversity on boards isn’t hard to achieve either. I know of a NHS chairman who, on joining his new Trust, realised he had a largely white, middle-class board. When he challenged this, he was told the right people hadn’t applied to board positions. His response was to change the methods through which board positions were advertised to target a far more diverse pool of applicants. He had a diverse board within six months.