Being a Governor

by Chris Birch (Patient Governor)—18 years ago I put up a memorial in Westminster Abbey (to a woman who had been dead for 615 years), and I get quite a buzz from owning a very small part of that magnificent church.

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Chris Birch, Patient Governor

E: chris.birch@chelwest.nhs.uk

18 years ago I put up a memorial in Westminster Abbey (to a woman who had been dead for 615 years), and I get quite a buzz from owning a very small part of that magnificent church.

Three years ago I was elected a Governor of this hospital, and I get a similar buzz from being a very small part of the governance of this wonderful hospital.

Before I was elected, I had thought that the Council of Governors (as it is now called) was probably a rubber-stamping body without any power. My first big surprise was to find that we have very real and important powers.

The most important of these is, perhaps, choosing and appointing someone to chair both the Council of Governors and the Board of Directors because a rubbish Chairman is likely to lead to a rubbish hospital. Happily, we were a very good hospital before we appointed Professor Sir Christopher Edwards, and we are an excellent one now.

We also decide how much the Chairman should be paid and if, at any time, he should be removed. And we do the same for the other five Non-Executive Directors.

The Board of Directors runs the hospital and the Governors are their 'critical friends', holding the Directors to account for the hospital's performance. We seek to represent the views of patients, staff and the community and bring these to bear on strategic decisions about the hospital's future.

My second big surprise was the amount of paper involved and the difficulty of keeping it under control. The papers for the Council of Governors meeting on 21 April 2010 weighed 1 lb 13 oz, and it cost the hospital £2.18 to post them to me. And that was just one meeting. It was a lot to read and I am not a slow reader.

However, most of the papers for the various sub-committees are distributed by email and I have spent a small fortune in the past three years printing them out. By ruthlessly throwing out any paper that I don't think I will need again, I manage to contain my hospital papers in five box files. But it's quite an effort, and I quite often throw away something I wish I hadn't.

One of the best things about being a Governor is all the new friends I have made.

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