Being a governor of NHS South London and Maudsley

Matthew Mckenzie

Welcome to another blog post by carer Matthew Mckenzie. For this blog post I want to express my views on involvement as a governor. As you might already know by now, I govern a large NHS mental health trust, that being SLaM or South London & Maudsley.

Since this blog post, I have been a governor for almost 3 years and soon my term comes to an end, but what actually does a governor do? Well being that the National Health Service is so large and complex, governors are voted in by the public or members of the hospital trust to help on the following.

– Representing the views of their constituency

– Attend Council of Governors meetings

– Attend a number of committees and working groups

– Observe the board to get an idea of trust issues.

– Laise with members of the trust, patients and their carers.

– Hold the Non-Executive Directors to account

….and a whole lot more.

I do not want to bore anyone by repeating rules and regulations. I want to blog about what I have learnt so far in being a governor of such a large organisation like SLaM.

Learning the ropes

When I started out as a governor there was a lot to learn, I would not want to lie, but there was technical jargon coming at me left right and center. Lots of papers to read and also understand, but I never felt too pressured to take everything in. It certainly helped speaking to other governors who had served their role for quite a long while.


The more I discussed issues with other governors the more at ease I felt. There were times when I just listened to the issues and not felt pressured into responding without some thought. There are a large number of things governors need to take into account, but learning the ropes and adequate training can certainly help in such a role.

Asking questions

A good governor knows when to ask questions, but most of the time I would listen. I feel a better governor seeks out their members in order to find what issues or good things are taking place, although a governor can seek answers through their knowledge of trust issues, I feel if a connection to members, community and the constituency should be intact, it makes a governors role a lot easier. I also have noted that even the most stupid questions can lead to revealing answers that no one has even thought of.

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Everyone has something to contribute

It would be bad form if a foundation trust sets an example that only certain types of governors can represent the community or its members. I feel despite our backgrounds, we come from different areas and abilities, some rich or poor, some disabled or talented, others dealing with difficult complex issues while some have made it through the hard times. There are no favorites, a strong council is one that helps governors feel passionate in taking part rather than feeling this is another chore.

Making a difference

There are many different reasons why someone has chosen to become a governor. Personally I just wanted to help out as long as I am able. Others want to see an improvement in services, some governors enjoy the debate and others are skilled bringing others together. I felt being a governor can be challenging at times, but I knew that being involved I was making a difference. When I ended up back at my carers group, I would often talk about my role and this would inspire others to want to sign up. If I complained about my role as a governor I suspect many would want to stay away, there are of course some difficult things to deal with as a governor, but I try not feel pressured, no one should be forced to feel any pressure in their role.

What SLaM means to me.

South London and Maudsley is big, yes, very huge and seems to be growing in size often. It is almost impossible to know what is going on in all parts of the trust. SLaM has services in around 4 boroughs and provides services in another 3 boroughs also nationally. SLaM has expanded in the middle east and has vast connections to other foundation trusts and the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience. Being that SLaM is so large has made me feel honored to stay in this role for so long despite the issues I am facing.

Check out the Induction video SLaM has made below.

I have felt the majority of SLaM staff supportive and I know I give them a difficult time. I do marvel at the skill and dedication some SLaM staff have to cope with, but its also true that lots of improvements and challenges still need to happen.

I am proud to be a part of a trust that has received “Good” rating from the CQC (inspection team). This shows the trust is working hard to improve services despite a lack of resources, every person in SLaM has played their part and just being there can make a big difference.

What I want to see

When my time as governor comes to an end, I will still try attend meetings to observe how new governors deal with such issues, I know being a governor requires the ability to handle politics, but I do not want to see politics for just its own sake.

I hope to see the trust inspire passion in its communities, I still feel a governor who is active in the community at least gets some idea on what the needs of the members are, even if the trust board might seem distant at times. Just because a trust can provide good services does not mean it can rest on its laurels. Mental health must be central to all what we do, and that I mean good mental health and wellbeing. If there is one thing I am critical about any mental health trust is that people can be wrapped up in their task that they forget about their actions on others.

nhs slam

This leads on to the core part about the NHS trusts vision.

“Everything we do is to improve the lives of the people and communities we serve and to promote mental health and wellbeing for all”

If you succeed or fail in your task, as long as you feel you are helping the wellbeing or mental health of another then you are upholding the foundation of a mental health trust. I have seen arguing, showmanship, jealously and so on. I guess such things arise from time to time, but all we need to do is remember….mental health and wellbeing for all.

Being a governor has been one of the biggest things I have done in my life and I am proud of this, but there is more to life than titles and roles. I hope to continue my work raising awareness and forming stronger links to the community.

Thank you for reading my blog post.