Becoming a Hospital Governor

Guv'nor mug image

It’s a funny old life I lead. Are you settled? Then I’ll begin…

In 2009 & 2010 I spent a lot of time visiting University College (of London) Hospital near where I lived. My most frequent visits were to the basement where they keep the physiotherapists and the gynaecology/endometriosis team. I don’t know what this says about these two departments but the staff were, on the whole, a fantastic bunch. A few problems plagued me though – administrative issues, last-minute cancellations of appointments I’d moved hell-and-earth to be at, lost blood test results requiring a redo, that kind of thing.

In September 2009, on receiving my umpteenth appointment letter which included the appropriate form, I signed up as a member of “the Trust” with very little idea of what that meant. I fairly quickly received a newsletter, which told me all sorts of wonderful things about the hospital and the wide variety of activities going on there.

Fast forward to April/May 2010 and my relationship with UCLH was becoming fairly cemented. With the prospect of at least one, and possibly two, rounds of surgery I felt like I had a vested interest in the success of the hospital. I don’t know if they have a word for someone who likes to stand for office but I think, if they do, it could be used for me. A flyer advertising the Trust Governing Body elections came out with the Spring 2010 newsletter and was immediately pinned to the noticeboard by my desk at work.

It turned out patients had a voice at the lofty senior-management levels of this hospital (it’s all part of being a Foundation Trust, but we’ll learn about that in a later blog post) and they were looking for more people to join them. I had plenty of time to think about it and they were looking for two new regional patient governors, which was the area I now fitted into having moved out of Bloomsbury…

I stood for election, couldn’t see any harm in it and it seemed like a way to put to good use my already numerous hours at the hospital. I had ideas to help make the experience better for patients and I wanted to be part of that change. I wrote for my election statement (the only way of communicating with any potential voters):

I am standing for election because I am passionate about high quality patient care and ensuring members feel part of the governance structure. I have many years experience in Local and National Government liaison and understand the problem of facing increased cost pressures whilst maintaining a strong and successful service delivery. I know I could bring fresh interest and a young voice to the role.

In particular, I am passionate about:

  • Representing the concerns of younger and older patients
  • Strengthening partnerships with health charities who can help upon diagnosis
  • Identifying situations that contribute to patients’ unease and working to provide more support at these times
  • Ensuring cost-saving means effective financing of the trust and not lowering the standard of patient care

I firmly believe the Governing Body are crucial to the life of this high-performinghospital. They help the trust to improve quality of service by:

  • Appointing or removing the Chairman and non-executive directors of the Board
  • Considering annual accounts, auditors’ report and annual report
  • Providing direction and focus for the trust’s strategic plan
  • Acting and responding as representatives

If elected as one of your Governors, I would commit to:

  • Attending all meetings, committees, working groups and seminars
  • Ensuring due consideration is made to appointments, annual accounts and strategic direction to ensure patient care is not compromised
  • Being available for members to contact
  • Making certain that members feel they and their concerns are adequately represented and heard

Remarkably, this, and a similar podcast I recorded for voters to listen to (no longer available, sadly), won it for me and I was more than a little shocked when I loaded the results on my phone to see my name in the list of newly elected Governors. I had not expected to win – I had stood against 9 other candidates, all of whom had far more experience. I had very little idea of what I had got myself in for, but had my usual healthy dose of enthusiasm and excitement for the prospect of a new challenge.

As of 1st September 2010, I was an elected member of the Governing Body of the UCLH NHS Foundation Trust, for a term of 3 years no less. What did this mean? What, exactly, was I supposed to do from here on in? Stay tuned for more Governor exploits…

[This is background –  largely here because me launching straight into posts about my work at the hospital without it was going to confuse many. Next up – what is this Foundation Trust malarky? Surely it’s just a hospital with a fancy title…]

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