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Rosie Shrimpton, Lead Governor

Good afternoon everybody.  I’m Rosie Shrimpton – a publicly elected governor of Oxleas.  Six years ago I was at a local meeting in Bromley about mental health and heard a talk on the fact that the Trust was about to become a Foundation Trust. 

I didn’t really know what this meant, but apparently members of the new Foundation Trust would have the opportunity to get involved in its work and have a say in the way services were run.   This sounded like a good idea to me, as I was a listening volunteer with the local Samaritan branch at that time and some of our callers were Oxleas service users.

I was particularly interested in the Oxleas telephone support line and the crisis services and felt that I might get more opportunity to input into those areas as a member. There was an offer on the membership form to stand in the governor elections, which also seemed like a good idea, as it would give me more of a say in what I considered was important.   

When I began my role as a governor, with no NHS background and limited knowledge of Oxleas, the first thing I noticed was what a huge organisation it was and how spread out all the different sites were.  I had to negotiate attending meetings and events at Pinewood House, the Bracton Centre, Memorial, Yeoman House, Green Parks House amongst others - even Charlton Football Club – and now the O2.  At this point I would like to pay particular tribute to some of my fellow governors who don’t have cars and do all this on public transport.

The second thing I noticed is how much information governors are given and have to absorb.  We have Council of Governors’ meetings every three months and they can last for over three hours each.  I can assure you that everything on the agenda is relevant and very little time is wasted.

We receive reports on all aspects of Oxleas services – patient and staff surveys, financial reports, the annual plan, complaints and incident reports.  Individual governors have the opportunity to feedback on the sections of the Trust that they are personally involved in, for example social inclusion, psychological therapies, membership, patient experience visiting and many more.

We also have informal governors’ meetings, which gives us the opportunity to talk about matters of importance and concerns that we may wish to discuss amongst ourselves.

Governors have Away Days too.  We sit on Serious Incident Inquiry panels and need training to help us to contribute efficiently to the process.  We have had training on mental health and also on interview and selection techniques for those governors wishing to take part in the appointment of Non Executive Directors.  We have talks on various aspects of trust’s work.  We need to be kept up-to-date and informed on changes – for example the relatively recent addition of the Community Services.   

Governors are invited to attend Board Meetings.  The benefits of this are two-fold – governors can input into proceedings, sometimes giving a different view, and also have an insight in how the main Board of the Trust operates.

Which brings me neatly on to the third thing I am aware of - the huge opportunity for governor involvement.  Governors are all volunteers – some are carers themselves with big commitments at home.   Some are or have been users of Oxleas services and are particularly knowledgeable.  Some governors work full or part time and some of them are appointed from organisations that tie in with Oxleas.  Some are involved in many other voluntary activities.  However, there is the opportunity for each governor to give as much time as they can individually spare and it is all useful and appreciated.

As a previous Chair of the Membership Committee, I have been very aware that a large percentage of our members are Oxleas staff, even more so now with the addition of the community services into the trust. Our staff governors have done an incredibly useful job over the years and it is very important that staff feel involved and part of their trust.

If governors get involved in a particular field within the trust, it tends to highlight that area.  For example we have just had a talk by trust carer lead Anna Chan on the work being done for carers within Oxleas.  I think Anna was amazed at the amount of interest shown and the volume of questions asked at that presentation and now ‘Carer Strategy Progress’ will hopefully become a standing item on the Council of Governors agenda, meaning that regular updates will be given to us.

I have spent the last couple of years as Lead Governor.  This is an elected role by the other Governors and it has given me the opportunity to have my ‘say’ even more loudly, which was my objective when I became a member in the first instance. 

My final observation on retiring today is what a great job the Council of Governors does.  It has evolved gradually over the last five and a half years into a group who have contributed a huge amount towards the trust.

An environment has been created where governors feel able to speak their minds and sometimes ask awkward questions, but in a positive and constructive way.  I believe that this is mainly due to our Trust chair, Dave Mellish, who believes in encouraging individuals to contribute, which leads to getting the best out of people.  

I would like to pay tribute to all my fellow governors and especially those leaving today who have been here with me since Oxleas first became a Foundation Trust.

Governors come in all shapes and sizes, but their aim is universal – to represent our members and to try to ensure that the quality of services is as good as it can be.

I am very pleased that Raymond Sheehy is taking over from me as Lead Governor.  I am sure Raymond will do an excellent job and will be well supported by his fellow governors and all our members.

I hope that, by telling you a little of my story, you will all encourage people to become members and also perhaps take the plunge yourselves and stand as governors.  There is the opportunity for useful involvement in this Foundation Trust for those of us who believe that quality of services is important and want to have our say in achieving this, so please take that opportunity.

Thank you.