At NELFT, we have seven Non-Executive Directors (including the Chair Joe Fielder). Non‐Executive Directors are members of the Trust’s board of directors and are appointees rather than employees. Their role is to contribute (collectively with the executive directors) to the strategic direction, leadership and management of NELFT, and to provide challenge to the executive directors and to bring an independent perspective to the boardroom.
So that staff, patients and stakeholders know more about the NEDs and their roles at the Trust, we will be having a monthly focus on one of the NEDs. We are starting with Brian Hagger, who is the Chair of the Remuneration Committee, among many roles, and asked Brian about his time at NELFT and what he brings to the role.
Why did you decide to join NELFT as a NED?
When I retired from a long career in banking in the UK and also in Africa, I was looking for a position that would enable me to put something back into the community in Havering - where I live. It was against this background that I applied for an advertised position as a Non-Executive Director in NELMHT, a forerunner of NELFT, a trust solely engaged in Mental Health services. After a rather long and demanding interview, I was delighted to have been offered the job.
The Trust soon became NELFT following the acquisition of a number of Community Health activities and, at much the same time, became a coveted Foundation Trust. During my watch NELFT has grown and grown and, as readers will be aware, now has a footprint in four London Boroughs, the whole of Essex and more recently in large swathes of Kent. The number of staff has grown from 2,000 to over 6,000 and the annual financial turnover has more than tripled albeit the size of the Board and Executive Management Team has remained constant throughout.
Can you explain what you see as the role of the Non-Executive Directors?
The core duties of Non-Executive Directors (NEDs) are really very interesting. Essentially the NED’s role is to provide a creative contribution to the board by way of independent oversight and constructive challenge to the executive directors. NELFT’s Non-Executive Directors come from a wide range of backgrounds and all have had experience at senior levels in the media, accountancy, insurance, banking, healthcare, the law, IT, commerce and the police force each bringing a wealth of knowledge and experience to the Board table.
In NELFT, our NEDs are expected to serve on some of the Trust’s Committees and I have been privileged to have been a member of Audit Committee, the Remuneration Committee which I chair, and our Charitable Trust. Some of my colleagues are members of the highly important Quality and Safety Committee. Additionally each NED is asked to “champion” certain aspects of NELFT’s activities, mine being the Duty of Candour, the Freedom to Speak-Up and thirdly Finance.
We NEDs try to spend time visiting NELFT’s operations and meet with staff and service users. Over the years, I have visited a good number of services in NELFTland which I always find encouraging and inspirational; very recently we all took part in a number of mock CQC Inspections which I found particularly helpful as we delved into the nitty-gritty of your work with our service users at the sharp-end.
Non Executive Directors are expected to attend the monthly formal Board Meetings and the less formal monthly Board Workshops. The purpose of the Board is to govern effectively, and in so doing to build patient, public and stakeholder confidence that their health and healthcare is in safe hands. A significant portion of board meetings directly or indirectly revolves around people – our service users and our staff and especially our priority areas of Safe, Effective, Responsive and Well-Led. So, our meetings always start off with a “patient journey” when we learn from recent service users and/or carers about their particular experiences of NELFT services. These are really important presentations as they give us the opportunity to learn just how effective we are perceived to be in our activities. While the majority of patients are full of praise for our services and our wonderful staff, there are times when it is made clear that we did not come up to the mark. While the latter situations are always chastening, it does give us the opportunity to learn and take remedial action and so enhance the experience of future patients.
The Board of NELFT demonstrates leadership by formulating the strategy of the Trust, and holding the organisation to account for the delivery of that strategy, while shaping a healthy culture. As you will all know, the thrust of our present high-level strategy is to deliver to the public we serve the best care by the best people. In my business life I have always been a believer in delivering excellence of service and my overriding personal wish is to see NELFT achieve this important challenge and truly become the best in class in the areas we serve. Board regularly reflects upon the progress we are making in achieving the core corporate objectives embodied in our strategy, considering remedial steps whenever performance is perceived to lag behind.
Is there one area that you would like the Trust to move forward/progress on?
All our staff will be aware of the changes that are taking place in the Health Economy throughout the UK at the moment where plans are being developed up and down the country between health bodies and social care leaders to improve care and to manage limited resources in each locality. NELFT is of course at the forefront of this on-going debate with our local partners and it is great to be on the Board at this time of great change.
Personally, what are you looking to achieve from your time working with the board?
Sadly my time with NELFT will be coming to an end next spring, as my contract expires in May. I have really enjoyed the role of NED and I do believe I have achieved my personal objective of putting something back into the local community through my role with NELFT and the impact that we are all making collectively to the health and well-being of the populations we serve.
Thanks to Brian for giving us his insight into the NED role. We will have a further interview next month.