9 July 2020

Cynthia Conquest is a non-executive director at Royal Papworth Hospital with an extensive knowledge of both the NHS and finance. Here she talks about being a NED at Royal Papworth and what she loves most about the role. 

What made you apply for the role of non-executive director (NED) at Royal Papworth Hospital?
I have been the equivalent of a NED in various roles in different sectors and thought it would be good to give that experience back to the NHS for which I have been working in for more than 40 years. Royal Papworth Hospital, in particular, because I have worked in specialist hospital settings previously and felt it would be a privilege to work in an internationally-renowned hospital again.

What does the role involve?
The role involves being part of the Unitary Trust Board and helping to formulate the strategic direction of the organisation, giving an independent and external perspective to the strategy being formulated. NEDs are also there to actively promote the culture and values of the Trust and to give visible leadership. 

We are also responsible for supporting the work of the Council of Governors and to give account to them of the effectiveness of the Board. This means being on various committees and ensuring that we understand all aspects of how the Trust runs in order to gain assurances on how well the Trust is doing. 

What have you enjoyed most about the role? 
Its variety and feeling that I am contributing in a small way to patient care. I love visiting the ward and clinic areas and seeing the sterling work that is being carried out by all staff from the cleaners to the medics. I have so far managed to avoid having to visit a live operating theatre: I am very squeamish!

What kind of experience or skills do you think are important for the role?
The ‘courage of one's convictions’ is a necessary skill as it will enable you to be brave to ask the right questions. An understanding of what is right for the patients to ensure that all the work being carried out is to that degree. I personally believe that in order to ensure that there is true diversity and balance on the Board, all types of experiences should be looked at; different views and skill sets are necessary.