New methods of recruiting health board members will increase public participation in the health service across Scotland, Health Secretary Alex Neil announced today.
The moves come after pilot projects found that adapting recruitment methods and taking a more proactive approach to advertising were the best ways to broaden the spectrum of applicants who apply to become health board members.
Health boards will now have to advertise posts more widely and adopt a pro-active approach to ensure that the public is effectively represented at board level.
The trials found these alternative methods to be more effective ways to engage with the local community, than the pilot of direct elections to health boards, which have proved costly and subject to low voter turn-out.
Health Secretary Alex Neil said:
“This pilot project was designed to ensure that the views of local people about their NHS are heard effectively, and to encourage them to be more involved in how the health service is run.
“These pilots have demonstrated that the most effective approach was a pro-active approach from boards to advertising and recruiting to posts. I am confident that these new measures will help to increase public engagement and improve local accountability.
“I have now asked health boards across Scotland to look at these pilots with a view to expanding their own recruitment process for health board members.
“I am confident that these measures will help to increase public engagement and improve local accountability more effectively than when we tested direct elections as part of the pilot.
“We have continued to evolve our methods of recruitment in relation to public appointments, which has seen a more diverse range of applicants coming forward to serve on our boards, better reflecting the spectrum of Scottish society and we intend to build on this approach through a range of strengthened arrangements and new measures which will be set out in a consultation paper to be published early in 2014.”
NHS Fife and NHS Dumfries and Galloway piloted the direct elections to health boards, which meant that members of the public were able to stand for and vote in elections for health board members.
Elections took place in spring 2010 and ran for at least two years before the independent evaluation.
However, the pilot found that due to low voter turnout, it was not the most effective way to engage with the local community.
Health boards across Scotland will now look at how they can adapt the alternative arrangements, which were tested by NHS Lothian and NHS Grampian, for use in their own area.
In NHS Grampian, adverts to recruit two new board members were advertised more widely through local radio, newspapers and distribution of flyers. In NHS Lothian, one board member was recruited through wider advertising, while another member was recruited through their patient forums.