Only half of England's hospital trusts have non-executive directors with healthcare leadership experience, according to new research published today by JRSM Open, the open access companion publication of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. The study, which looked at the occupational backgrounds of 1,001 NHS non-executive directors (NEDs), found that of the 142 trusts analysed, only 4% of board chairs had a medical background, while 38% came from industry and 23% had a background in finance. 48% of trusts had no non-executive directors with a medical or nursing background.
The research, which extrapolated data from hospital websites in early 2013, was carried out by Colin Pritchard and Andrew Harding of Bournemouth University. Professor Pritchard said: "The Francis inquiry report into the Stafford Hospital scandal described an insidious negative culture which focused on 'doing the system's business' rather than developing a more patient-centred, clinically led and integrated NHS. Our research indicated that NHS boards consisting of NEDs with experience far from NHS patients and front-line staff experience are not equipped to bring about the desired cultural change."
Professor Pritchard added: "The high commercial and financial calibre of current NEDs is undoubted, yet boards should be wary of a silent takeover of their NHS hospitals by commerce and finance. Boards should be balanced by including NEDs with health and social care leadership experience who will raise the issue of resources in a chronically underfunded service and help create a more patient and family-centred NHS."