Written evidence from The Department of Health and Social Care (NED05)

Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee

The Role of Non-Executive Directors in Government inquiry




  1. The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) Non-Executive Directors provide independent oversight and constructive challenge to the executive team and ministers. Their role covers several areas of interest across aspects of governance such as departmental performance and system leadership.


  1. One of the key roles of Non-Executive Directors (NEDs) is attending the quarterly Departmental Board meeting. This Board operates according to the Cabinet Office Corporate Governance Code for Central Government Departments. Corporate governance code for central government departments 2017 - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)


  1. The Board is made up of a mixture of senior officials, NEDs and ministers, with the Secretary of State as Chair. This Board provides the collective strategic and operational leadership of the Department of Health and Social Care, and has responsibility for:


         Supporting Ministers and the Department on strategic issues linked to the development and implementation of the Government’s objectives for the health and social care system;

         Horizon scanning for emerging issues;

         Ensuring there is strategic alignment across the health and care system;

         Ensuring that any strategic decisions are based on a collective understanding of evidence, insight and experience;

         Overseeing the sound financial management of the Department;

         Overseeing the management of risks within the Department and its ALBs, including consideration of the Department’s risk register; and

         Overseeing the Department’s portfolio of major programmes and projects. 


  1. The Board has responsibility for monitoring performance and delivery against objectives and key metrics, including corporate metrics and risks. Discussions are often focused on finance and performance. The Audit and Risk Committee (ARC) also has a role in reviewing the Department’s High Level Risk Register and performing scrutiny of individual risks. The ARC regularly makes recommendations that other areas are reviewed and considered for inclusion at future board meetings.


  1. The input of the NEDs at Departmental Board, and other meetings and committees which they attend, is advisory. Decisions are made by Ministers and administered by Officials. As they are appointed from a wide range of backgrounds across the public, private and voluntary sector, they are able to provide wide-ranging external insights for both the board and for other officials across the Department to consider with regard to policy making and implementation. For further detail on this point, please refer to the submission of evidence provided by the Cabinet Office.


  1. The DHSC NEDs provide advice and support to the department, as well as challenging the Executive and Ministers. They have regular meetings with some policy teams, attend deep dives on issues and sit on a number of committees which contribute to our work and governance. They use their experience in leadership, workforce, transformational change, technology and quality and safety to support the department in its mission to help people live more independent, healthier lives for longer.


  1. In particular, the NEDs have attended a number of COVID related boards, including the COVID Recovery Board, EU Exit boards and the Adult Social Care Reform Programme Board. The NEDs contribute to these meetings by providing ad hoc advice, feedback and support to individual senior officials. Due to being based across the UK, these meetings are attended both in person and virtually.


  1. The NEDs also take it in turn to produce a blog post for our departmental intranet to talk about their experience of departmental board meetings and also to offer support to teams across the department where their unique insights and wealth of experience can prove valuable in our day-to-day work.


  1. The NEDs have provided positive feedback and helped to bolster the morale of the department’s staff through the recent unprecedented times, such as in a letter to staff from Lead NED Kate Lampard (copy available at end of written evidence)


  1. Gerry Murphy Chairs the Audit and Risk Committee and attends meetings relating to this. He also sits on the Nominations and Governance Committee and the Remuneration Committee in his capacity as the non-executive leading on talent management.


  1. Kate Lampard has additional responsibilities as the Lead NED, which include conducting performance reviews of a number of lead officials including our Permanent Secretary, and our Second Permanent Secretary, plus the Chief Medical Officer.


  1. NEDs also attend updates from teams on large projects, such as the New Hospitals Programme.


  1. Our NEDs have regular catch ups with the Permanent Secretary and Second Permanent Secretary to feedback and seek assurance on any concerns which they have noted, either from their various meetings with officials, their own experiences or from media reports. All parties find these meetings very valuable, with the frequency ensuring that they are very aware of each other’s views and concerns, plus are kept updated on progress of the department’s key work.


  1. As part of their wider departmental engagement, NEDs in the department have also provided mentoring and advice to Senior Civil Servants when they have had the capacity to do so.


  1. As with all departments, our lead NED, currently Kate Lampard, provides a statement for inclusion in the department’s Annual Reports and Accounts (ARA). An independent Board Effectiveness evaluation was carried out in 2020-21, as referenced in the ARA. HC 1053 – Department of Health and Social Care Annual Report and Accounts 2020-21 (publishing.service.gov.uk)


  1. The ARA also provides a public record of NED declarations of interest.


  1. The DHSC Departmental Board currently has four NEDs. Kate Lampard (Lead NED) is supported by Gerry Murphy (Chair of the Audit and Risk Committee), Doug Gurr and Julian Hartley. Kate and Gerry were re-appointed for a further three-year term in 2020. Doug was a new three-year appointment from December 2020 and Julian from November 2021. The DHSC Board is short of members, at present having two vacancies. The department was in the process of filling those roles prior to the departure of former Secretary of State Sajid Javid in early July 2022, and will be seeking the permission of the new Secretary of State to continue that process.


  1. The current NEDs have expressed concerns about their capacity and are keen that the department fill these vacancies. The department has faced unprecedented challenges since the beginning of the pandemic and demands on their time have been higher for a sustained period as a result of increased activity and the expansion of the department.


  1. An existing gap in the skills and experience of the Board NEDs includes someone with experience in either social care or local government. The appointment of Julian Hartley in November 2021 addressed the gap previously identified in frontline healthcare experience. Julian is the Chief Executive of the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.


  1. Appointments are made in line with the Cabinet Office guidelines on public appointments: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/578498/governance_code_on_public_appointments_16_12_2016.pdf For further information on the appointments process, please refer to the submission of evidence provided by the Cabinet Office.


  1. Appointments are managed by the Secretariat and Public Appointments Team within the department’s Governance and Accountability function.



July 2022








Text, letter

Description automatically generated