Current Governor Heather Penwarden shares her thoughts on the Governor role

17 Aug 2022

How long have you been a public Governor?
I am just approaching the end of my first year.

Why did you become a public Governor?
Having worked as a clinician in the NHS for all my career, along with being a patient and having loved ones as patients, I want to do my bit in supporting our local NHS services.

"I see myself as a lifelong learner and enjoy a bit of a challenge so this fits perfectly for me, with the added bonus of getting to meet new people." Heather Penwarden, Public Governor for the Eastern Constituency

How does the role benefit you?
As a reasonably new retiree, the role of Governor helps to keep me mentally stimulated. I see myself as a lifelong learner and enjoy a bit of a challenge, so this fits perfectly for me – with the added bonus of getting to meet new people, be part of a team and to keep actively engaged with my interest in how our health and care is delivered within the organisation of the NHS.

How would you describe the role?
To be honest it has taken me a year to really work this out. The role of a public Governor is quite complex and as with everything in life you get out of it what you put in.

Whilst you do not need a background working in the NHS, you will need to gradually build up an understanding of how it works locally through reading and attending meetings.

Being curious and having the confidence to ask questions are good skills to have.

One of the key roles of a Governor is to observe the Non-Executive Directors in their role as holding the Executive Directors to account and act as a critical friend. 

Governors work as a body and not individually and there are plenty of opportunities to meet with other Governors and put forward any concerns you might have for all to hear and discuss. 

There is also a role for a Governor in actively listening to conversations from the community and picking up on any themes, either positive or negative, and passing this on through the Council of Governors to the Executive Board.

Can anyone become a public Governor? Who would you recommend for the role?
The best Governing Bodies are made up of people with a broad range of backgrounds, skills and interests in order to reflect all who work for or use the services of the Trust.  You just need to be a Member of the Royal Devon University Healthcare Trust and that is easy to set up.

You will need to be a good listener, willing to learn, have enough confidence to be an active participant in meetings and a hold genuine interest in our local NHS

What is the time commitment like, and how do you manage that?
The time commitment varies. We get schedules in advance detailing all the meetings we are invited to attend for the coming months.

There are a few meetings each month that all Governors attend and then extra working groups you can join if you want to develop a special interest. I attended all of the working groups as an observer and from that have chosen which ones to settle in, which worked well for me.

All of our meetings this year have been virtual. In managing my time this has been very helpful, but it has meant I have not had the chance to get to know my fellow Governors and Non-Executive Directors very well.  We are now going to try hybrid meetings where you can choose to attend in person or virtually, which I think will prove a good compromise.


For more information about being a Governor and opportunities to join, please visit our Governor elections page.

Close Current Governor Heather Penwarden shares her thoughts on the Governor role

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Last updated: August 17, 2022