Corporate governance mapped

by Lisa Robertson

13 September 2018

A new tool from the HFMA for the first time gives access to all relevant NHS corporate governance documents from a single place.

You don’t get many headlines about corporate governance in the NHS – well at least not until things go wrong and then everybody is an expert on what should have happened. Despite its sometimes dry and formal appearance, corporate governance is vital to the delivery of the service’s goals. Without good governance, organisations won’t achieve the outcomes they want for patients, they won’t meet their financial targets and services will simply not be sustainable.

Nor is it a theoretical subject. There have been very real recent reminders of significant governance failings in NHS providers that serve as a warning for all trusts of the importance of a solid governance framework. And beyond these major failings, there are always ways that governance processes can be improved.

But a very real challenge for those charged with governance responsibilities – NHS boards, governing bodies, audit committees and the officers and non-executives that sit on them – is keeping track of the wide-ranging requirements, standards, guidance and best practice that apply in this area. Fortunately, the HFMA’s new Corporate governance map provides a handy solution.

It is hard to believe that a similar resource did not already exist. But this new tool will be welcomed by anyone who has lost time trying to find specific, relevant governance documents on a range of different websites across government departments, system leaders, regulators, audit bodies or other professional groups. The new map signposts all the key documents relating to governance in the NHS.

It is arranged in three sections. A section on the strategic framework helps organisations and officers to understand the overall principles, responsibilities and vision for the NHS. Find here everything from the NHS constitution, which underpins the whole operation of the service, to the key documents setting out officer responsibilities and all the key planning guidance.

This is an increasingly complex area with the service currently moving away from a competitive model to one based on collaboration, although the market-based architecture is still very much in place in England. However, as part of this strategic framework section, the map signposts the help that is out there in terms of the governance arrangements needed for system working.

A section on enabling good governance brings together all the codes of conduct and codes of governance that set out the expectations on NHS professionals. It provides links to model financial instructions and specific guidance for audit committees and on ethical standards for accountants.

A final section covers specific areas for assurance. Here you will find templates and guidance for board assurance frameworks as well as details of existing assessment frameworks for both commissioners and providers. Other specific areas covered include: conflicts of interest; procurement; fraud; whistleblowing; and information governance.

Plans are to update the map regularly. As it stands, it focuses on the English health service, although much of the content will be relevant to health services across the whole UK. However, the intention is to supplement the map with any specific relevant documents and guidance for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

The Corporate governance map borrows its structure and approach from the existing NHS efficiency map – developed by the HFMA in conjunction with NHS Improvement. The efficiency map has proved a hugely popular reference document for NHS finance practitioners and others and the early signs are that the governance map will be just as popular.