A message from Helen

Board governance in amongst COVID-19

Working in these times is proving a new experience for us all, the change to our lifestyles personally and professionally is impacting all of us. The impact on our Board is no different and with every challenge comes the opportunity to review what we do and how we do it. 

Our approach to governance is already well established, we make sure we follow the principles of good governance, making sure we focus on the right and most relevant topics for the matters at hand, with an eye on the future and of course ensuring we remain compliant. COVID-19 has provided us with an opportunity to test our governance and reflect on our ability to respond, reprioritise and remain resilient.

Our Board remains accountable for setting strategic direction, setting the culture and tone for the organisation, ensuring that effective governance and risk management arrangements are in place, and monitoring performance in the effective delivery of the our strategic plan. Whilst the focus has been COVID-19 over recent months, the Board has continued to fulfil its full role making adjustments as we have gone along. 

Our Board has changed in many ways over recent months, for example it now meets virtually and on a monthly basis, we have introduced more frequent Board briefings and email updates to help Board members focus on the key issues of the day, week and month. We have revised our Board Committee structure to reflect the organisational focus on responding to the pandemic, meaning we have suspended two committees for the foreseeable future. All of this means we have needed to make some change to our governance rules, many of which the NHS as a whole have also made. 

We are lucky to have very experienced Executive and Non-Executive Board members each with their own key contributions and all of whom have been critical to guiding the organisation through this challenging time. The Board has a particular focus at every meeting about our staff team, discussing wellbeing and feedback received, for example through the recent How Are We Doing staff survey. 

Jan and Kate, our Chair and Vice Chair are posting regular updates about the work and focus of the Board, we hope you find these useful. I thought it would be helpful to give you an update about the key areas the Board covered last week (25 June):

  • Much of the agenda was COVID focussed; last week we received a deep dive presentation on surveillance from Dr Chris Williams; heard from Dr Tom Connor about the great work within Genomics; discussed the overall response to the pandemic and our progress in implementing the stage 2 response plan; had a detailed update on a number of issues relating to our staff and the importance of everyone’s health and wellbeing. The Board consistently takes great interest in our staff and the importance of understanding the pressures and challenges of the pandemic;
  • Part of the agenda provided assurance about our organisational recovery plans and the reactivation of services, for example screening
  • We discussed the importance of Black Lives Matter and reflected on the part we all have to play in standing up against racism and discrimination in all its forms. The Board is looking forward to reviewing the Strategic Equality Plan next month as part of our ongoing work in such an important area for all of us.  

All of the above forms part of what we call the ‘Board Assurance Framework’ and is supported by other updates and assurances such as the CEO report, the Integrated Performance Report (which covers a wide range of delivery areas including performance indicators, workforce statistics, Putting Things Right - complaints, claims and feedback and the financial report). 

Running the Board meeting electronically, and in several different locations, is not something we are used to. The motivation from everyone around the table mixed with their expertise, quality of reports provided from within the organisation and the facilitative style of chairing from Jan, I am proud and very pleased that we have maintained an effective balance of scrutiny, mixed with challenge and support in equal measure. 

I think we are lucky to have a Board of such experienced Executive and Non-Executive colleagues to help steer us now and into our future in what is such a challenging and strange time. 

Like I said, with every challenge is an opportunity – we hope to be able to live stream our Board meetings from July and will be welcoming back a question and answer session with you, our staff. Watch out for more details. 

If you would like to read any more about last week’s Board meetings, the papers are available here. The minutes will be published as soon as possible. 

If you have any queries or questions or want to offer any feedback about the work of our Board or the Board Business Unit, please do get in touch, my email is helen.bushell@wales.nhs.uk and phone number is 07711 819665. 

Thanks for reading!