Memorandum by Philip J Champ, Chairman,
NHS Logistics Authority (PAP 19)
I respond as Chairman of this Authority, but
also from a background of having for five years been Chairman
of Rampton Special Hospital Authority and prior to that a member
of the Board of East Midlands Electricity, both in the public
and the private sectors. I am also a past president of Nottinghamshire
Chamber of Commerce and a past member of various regional economic
This response is mine, but has been shared withand
is broadly endorsed bythe Board of this Authority.
The following responses align with the numbering
of the Committee's questions.
1. and 2. Election is appropriate only for
those roles where the prime requirement is "representation"
of the views of a constituency. Appointments processes are (or
should be) designed to identify the individual with the most appropriate
skills, experience, knowledge and capability to undertake a role.
The justification for the wide use of appointments lies in the
importance of getting "the best person" for the job.
The wider use of election processes would inevitably
lead to the "politicisation" of appointments and to
the appointment of individuals with communicational skills and
the support of a political party (or other similar well-resourced
lobby group), rather than necessarily someone with the skills
and experience needed to do the job.
3. While there is much to be said for encouraging
a sense of civic duty (particularly when seeking to attract individuals
already in full time employment onto public bodies), a system
that picks people at random would virtually "guarantee"
that roles were filled by individuals without any relevant knowledge
or skills. There may be a place for this approach where appointments
to general consumer representative bodies are to be made.
4. This question, I submit, lies at the
heart of the current enquiry. In respect of each public body,
it has to be decided what the (non-executive) membership is there
for. As the Committee identifies in its paper, different bodies
exist for different purposes. There is a need for greater clarity
about the purpose of the body. If it exists to give expert advice,
then there can be little doubt that it should be populated by
individuals with eminent expertise in the field. If, at the other
extreme, it exists to represent a cross section of public opinion
to the executives of that body, then there may be a case for an
element of election from the relevant constituency.
Problems arise from the current lack of
public understanding of the purpose of some bodies. Does an NHS
hospital trust exist to oversee the effective running of a major
public enterprise, spending millions of taxpayer's money, or does
it exist to represent the views of the local population to the
Executive? Or, cynically, does it simply exist to form a "buffer"
between Ministers and what may sometimes be unpalatable local
decisions? The different roles call for entirely different skills
and different people.
5. In general the process appears to work
well, however, the role of independent assessors should perhaps,
include active involvement from the initial job specification
stage. A more robust and active role for well-trained external
assessors should include challenging and debating with departments
the expectations of the candidates, the person specification and
the best way of attracting good candidates.
6. I believe that if the Committee were
able to bring greater clarity to the role and purpose of some
bodies where the function is presently ill defined, the question
of the method of selection would answer itself.
7. and 8. In the past, in my experience,
there has been political involvement in appointments, both in
the NHS and elsewhere. In the NHS the system of appointment has
just changed and time will tell whether political involvement
has now been precluded. However, in some public appointments,
a political involvement is inevitable; the issue is whether that
political involvement is open, visible and publicly justified,
or whether it is "behind the scenes".
9. and 10. I have no comment to offer.
11. There may be a role for a form of Parliamentary
scrutiny where the role of the public body is primarily that of
representing/reflecting public opinion, eg the regulators, but
not where the public body exists primarily to oversee the effective
running of an enterprise.
12. It is early days, but I believe the
NHS Appointments Commission model, which has just been launched,
is one that could be mirrored in other spheres. Indeed, the Committee
may wish to ask itself why the NHS Appointments Commission mandate
extends to NHS trusts, but not to Special Health Authorities,
such as this Authority.
13. and 14. There is clear evidence from
the profile of people appointed to NHS Boards, that a significant
tranche of the population is under represented, namely the working
With the exception of very senior executives,
few people of working age have the opportunity to join public
bodies (unless membership is demonstrably "part of the day
job"). I know that the Commissioner for Public Appointments
is campaigning to change this by pointing out to employers the
experience value that individuals derive from membership of a
public body. However, I believe this is an area where Parliament
and Government could make a difference. We should seek to get
public body membership, viewed by employers, as a civic duty and
a valuable personal development experience, akin to Territorial
Army service and actively encourage participation in public bodies
from those in full time employment.
I submit that encouraging and facilitating applications
for public body membership from a wider spectrum of the population,
will support the principle of appointment on merit.
15. The Committee will be aware that there
is a wide diversity of remuneration arrangements across public
bodies. Government departments do not appear to have harmonised
the remuneration arrangements for the bodies for which they are
responsible. The principle, I suggest, should be that all (except
perhaps minor and short term) service on public bodies should
be remunerated, and at a consistent rate, reflective of the time
commitment expected. More use of remuneration (at a realistic
but not over-generous level) would make it easier for people to
participate. Unpaid positions are inevitably filled only by those
who can `afford' to volunteer, thus producing an inevitable bias
away from those in full-time employment.
16. and 17. Based upon my experience of
recruiting/interviewing NHS non-executives, no. The process
is still perceived as obscure and secretive. Further, because
the process is typically extremely protractedsix months
from advert to offer is not unusualgood candidates suspect
the process, lose interest, and/or take up an alternative role
outside the public sector. The process needs to be consistent
across the public sector, widely known and speeded up, with the
timetable to decision agreed and made know in the initial documentation.
Perhaps there could be one Internet site on
which all appointments have to appear; these could be indexed
by health, education, regional, etc. This would make it much easier
to publicise and easier to see exactly what is available. The
site could also show the timetable of the appointment, who is
eventually appointed and how many applications were received.
This might go some way to demonstrate greater openness, transparency
18. I have met and heard Dame Rennie on
a number of occasions. Her role is concerned with ensuring the
existence of fair and open recruitment processes.
19. Such informal partnerships are often
assembled from people who already play a role in public administration;
as President of the Nottinghamshire Chamber of Commerce I sat
on several. A different code of practice is, I believe, needed
to give legitimacy to the constitution of such partnerships from
people who are already fulfilling roles on public bodies. I do
not believe it would produce the desired result if such roles
were the subject of fully open competition.
20. 21. and 22. No comment.
23. Yes. While the framework for appointments
may need to be modified to suit differing situations, in principle
I believe all appointments to public bodies should be embraced
within the Commissioner's remit and be conducted according to
similar codes of practice.
24. The launch of the NHS Appointments Commission
is a positive development. It is too early to judge the extent
to which it will result in better appointments, but I believe
25. Why not?
Philip J Champ