Becoming a governor

Doctor sitting at deskThank you for expressing interest in the forthcoming elections and the role of a governor at Dorset HealthCare. This information is intended to help you if you are considering standing for election as a governor.

Dorset HealthCare is responsible for community and mental health services across Dorset and some services in Southampton. We serve a population of 800,000, employing more than 6,000 staff with unique expertise and specialist knowledge.  

Wherever possible, we want people to be able to stay in their own homes, which is why so many of our services are in the community, closer to home – caring for people – our community, our healthcare.

Dorset HealthCare became a Foundation Trust on 1 April 2007. Being a Foundation Trust gives us far more freedoms in terms of how we spend our money and develop as an organisation — this is why it is so important that we have a membership of people from the communities we serve, so that we can be sure we are responding to local need and integrating across traditional service boundaries.

We are regulated by two national organisations: NHS England and the Care Quality Commission. These oversee how we operate as an organisation. The Care Quality Commission has awarded Dorset HealthCare a rating of Outstanding.

NHS England is responsible for overseeing NHS Foundation Trusts, NHS Trusts and independent providers, helping them give patients consistently safe, high quality, compassionate care within local health systems that are financially sustainable.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) regulates all health and social care services in England. The Commission ensures the quality and safety of care in hospitals, ambulances, care homes, dentists and the care given in people's own homes.

Election timetable

There are seven vacancies to be filled in these elections:

  • Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Constituency: three seats
  • Dorset and the rest of England and Wales Constituency: three seats
  • Staff Constituency: one seat.
Key events Date
Notice of election / nominations open 1 July
Nominations deadline 29 July
Summary of valid nominated candidates published 30 July
Final date for candidate withdrawal 1 August
Notice of poll published 19 August
Voting packs despatched 20 August
Close of election 13 September
Declaration of results 16 September

All members will be sent ballot forms, inviting them to vote in the election. This form will include brief information about every candidate, including their election statement. Prospective governors are not expected to undertake significant electioneering.

What are NHS Foundation Trusts?

NHS Foundation Trusts are not-for-proft, public benefit corporations which are part of the NHS. They were created to devolve decision-making from central government to local organisations and communities. They provide and develop healthcare according to core NHS principles: free care, based on need and not ability to pay.

Each has a Board of Directors that is responsible for the delivery of high-quality NHS care, financial efficiency, forward planning and innovation.

Governor flow chart

What is the role of a governor?

Governors represent the views of, and provide a link between members, staff, patients, public, partner organisations and our Board of Directors. They give feedback and ensure the Trust engage and respond to issues that are brought to their attention. Our governors support us in the delivery of our mission to provide integrated services that empower people accessing our services to make the most of their lives. They help make a difference to patients and those using and providing our services by helping the Trust engage with the communities we serve.

Governors, who join together to form the Council of Governors, hold the non-executive directors to account for delivery of the strategy and objectives we develop together.

Governors have a vital role in ensuring local accountability. As a council, governors have key responsibilities such as appointing and determining the pay of the chair and non-executive directors on the board of directors, the selection of the external auditor, the development of an active membership by encouraging people to become members and sharing information about the Trust’s performance and future plans and representing the views of the public to the Trust.

Governors are not responsible for the day-to-day running of the organisation, which rests with the board of directors. However, governors have an important advisory role to the boards of directors representing the views of the membership about the service that we provide. There are opportunities to get involved with specific projects and to represent the Trust locally and nationally.   

Governors collectively form the Trust's Council of Governors.

Public governors

Every NHS Foundation Trust is required to have a majority of public governors on the council of governors. Our council of governors includes 14 public governors, elected from two seperate constituencies – Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) and Dorset and the Rest of England and Wales (Dorset RoEW).

Partner governors

Every NHS Foundation Trust is required to have partner governors. Our council includes five partner governors, nominated by their organisation. 

Staff governors 

Our council includes six staff governors, elected amongst our staff, both clinical and non-clinical. Staff governors do not deal with any individual or personal issues that may involve staff, such as disciplinary proceedures or changes to staff contracts. The staff governor's role is very different from trade unions, professional bodies and staff-side organisations.  

Practical examples of what governors can do

Patient experience

Governors can take part in focused work on aspects of patient experience, for example in regular audits of the community hospital environment for patients.


Governors help to identify priorities for improvement and provide input into the annual quality account which the Trust is required to publish.

Governors play a lead role in seeking ways to make information more accessible and readable.

Engagement with Foundation Trust members and the general public

Governors develop and implement the membership strategy, including recruitment, retention and engagement. Governors support this in a number of ways including:

  • hosting regular engagement events in their communities around Dorset
  • attending events with the membership manager to recruit new members
  • participating in the Annual General Meeting (AGM) to highlight and explain the role of the governors and their activities over the previous 12 months. This year's AGM will be held on 26 September when the new governors' term of office begins.

What is the commitment for governors?

Every year there will be a minimum of four council meetings including the Annual General Meeting. These meetings are the core commitment. The minimum requirement to remain in office as a governor is to attend three Council of Governors meetings, in any 12-month period of the Council of Governors. However, most governors find that attending all of these meetings allows them to contribute fully in their role as a governor. All governors are requested to attend the Council of Governors meetings to ensure that these meetings are quorate and decisions for the council can be made.

There is also a range of other governor activities, such as attending board of directors committee meetings, governor working groups, meetings with members, joint workshops with directors, site visits, training days and some reading that are all important to effective governorship.

Governors do not have to take part in workings groups. However, many governors say that it is here that they get particular satisfaction from their work.

This means that you might typically expect to commit up to two days per month to your role as a governor, which could include council meetings, working groups, reading, meetings with members and visits.

When you are first elected there will also be an induction and training programme to help you understand more about the role of being a governor.

Each governor should bring with them a range of personal attributes which will collectively enable the Council of Governors to work effectively.

Key attributes include:

  • a high level of interest in healthcare issues although a background in the NHS is not essential
  • good interpersonal and communication skills
  • sound, independent judgement, common sense and diplomacy
  • an interest in understanding and reflecting the interests and views of members and the public.

Governors must be able to:

  • communicate on behalf of the membership
  • devote sufficient time and commitment to fulfil the role
  • attend four public Council of Governors meetings per year and the Annual General Meeting
  • be prepared to attend other meetings arranged by the Trust in order to fulfil the statutory duties required as a governor, events and board committees based on your areas of interest
  • keep up to date with strategic issues regarding the Trust
  • read the materials provided to keep governors up to date with health service policy and Trust business.

Precious Whild.pngSupport for governors

Induction and training

A tailored induction programme is provided for new governors. This comprehensive programme will be designed to provide all governors with the opportunity to learn more about their role as a governor, the information necessary to support them in the discharge of their duties and further an introduction to the ways in which governors can, and should, contribute to, and influence, developments at the Foundation Trust.

The Chair will hold an informal introductory session on 16 October for newly elected governors prior to attending their first Council of Governors meeting on 20 November.

The Council of Governors as individuals or as a collective group may seek additional training or skills in specific areas. This will be agreed with the Chair.

Newly elected governors will have the opportunity to work with an existing governor, who will provide advice and support.

Governors will also be supported in their communication with Trust members, and the public in general. This will be through the Corporate Affairs Office. This includes supporting governors to engage and communicate with the public that have elected them. Secretarial support and other information can also be provided and we will also arrange regular sessions where members can meet with governors.

How long would I be a governor?

Governors are elected for a three year term of office. The maximum number of consecutive terms of office is three (ie nine years in total).

If a governor should resign, or if they cease to be eligible for any other reason, then their position as a governor comes up for re-election for the length of the remaining term in office.

Prospective governors should be aware that:

  • you will need access to IT equipment and be able to manage electronic communications
  • you will need to undertake the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.

The Trust welcomes nominations from persons of any age (16 years or over), race, colour, religious belief, ethnic or national origin, sexual orientation, gender, disability or marital status and will provide support to anyone in need to carry out their role. This support will be provided by the Corporate Affairs Office and the Governor and Membership Manager.

Chef.pngHow do I apply?

In order to participate in the election, as a candidate or voter, you must be a member of the Trust on or before the closing date for the receipt of nominations. To become a member of the Trust, please apply on our members page.

In order to apply, you will need to complete the nomination form by providing:

  • your full name and title and your name as you wish it to appear on the ballot paper (if different)
  • your address for correspondence, contact telephone number, contact email and date of birth - this information is for use by the Trust and Civica, who will run the election for us. It will not be printed in the ballot paper
  • the constituency in which you are standing for election
  • an election statement of no more than 250 words. Please read the guidance on election statements before completing this section, and read through your statement carefully before returning your nomination form. Any words after the 250 word limit will not be included in the published election statement so please make sure that you do not exceed the word limit
  • your declaration of interests (including whether you are a member of a political party, and have any financial or other interests in the Trust - for instance, you are related to an employee of the Trust)
  • a declaration that you are eligible to be a governor of the Trust.
Put your name forward as a governor

Information and advice by telephone, email or post


Governor and Membership Manager

Corporate Department

Dorset HealthCare

Sentinel House

4-6 Nuffield Road



BH17 0RB

Telephone: 01202 277004

Further information

For information and enquiries about the election process contact Civica Election Services.


Civica Election Services

33 Clarendon Road  

London N8 0NW


Guidance on election statements

Full guidance on election statements will be provided with your nomination form, but you may wish to consider the following themes when preparing your statement:

  • your reason for standing as a public/staff governor, the skills you could bring to this role and your relationship/contact with the Trust
  • your election statement will be reproduced and circulated to voters with the ballot paper. Please note that in the interest of fairness, we will ensure candidates’ election statements are reproduced exactly as they have been submitted. Therefore, please check your election statement carefully for any grammatical or spelling errors before submitting it
  • we may decide to edit or refuse to publish your election statement if it is factually inaccurate or contains libellous material
  • please state the total number of words used at the end of your election statement. If your election statement exceeds the word limit, it will be cut at the word limit followed by the words ‘statement cut at word limit’
  • you are encouraged to submit a photo to support your election statement
  • failure to provide an election statement by close of nominations will not invalidate your application; instead, the words ‘statement not received’ will be published in the space where your statement would have appeared
  • the following information will accompany your election statement: your name as you wish it to appear, the constituency in which you are standing and your declaration of interests.

Detailed information about eligibility to be a governor

A person may not become a governor of the Trust, and already holding such office will immediately cease to do so, if:

  • they are a director or an associate director (or equivalent, as determined by the Chair and Chief Executive) of the Foundation Trust or a governor or director of an NHS body (unless they are appointed by an appointing organisation which is an NHS body or the Chair of the Trust decides that any potential conflict of interest is not material.)
  • they are the spouse, partner, parent, child, sister or brother of a member of the Board of Directors or associate director (or equivalent, as determined by the Chair and Chief Executive) of the Foundation Trust
  • they are a member of Health Watch (nationally or locally)
  • they are deemed to be a vexatious complainant, as determined in accordance with the Foundation Trust’s complaints procedure
  • they have been previously removed as a governor or they have been removed as a governor or expelled from membership of another Foundation Trust
  • being a member of the Public Constituency, they refuse to sign a declaration in the form specified by the secretary of particulars of their qualification to vote as a member of the Foundation Trust, and that they are not prevented from being a member of the Council of Governors
  • they are a person who, by reference to information revealed in a criminal record certificate or enhanced criminal record certificate issued by the Disclosure and Barring Service under Part V of the Police Act 1997, is considered by the Foundation Trust to be inappropriate on the grounds that his appointment might adversely affect public confidence in the Foundation Trust or otherwise bring the Foundation Trust into disrepute
  • they are included in any barred list established under the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006, or who is included in an equivalent list maintained under the law of Scotland or Northern Ireland
  • they are subject to a sex offender order or committed any sex offence prior to the introduction of the Sex Offenders Act 1997
  • within the last five years they have been involved as a perpetrator in a serious incident of violence
  • they have within the preceding two years been dismissed, otherwise than by reason of redundancy, from any paid employment with an NHS body
  • they are a person whose tenure of office as the chair or as a member or director of an NHS body has been terminated on the grounds that their appointment is not in the interests of the health service, for non-attendance at meetings, or for non-disclosure of a pecuniary interest.
  • they are not or cease to be a member of the constituency by which they were elected
  • they have been made bankrupt or their estate has been sequestrated and (in either case) they have not been discharged
  • they are a person who has made a composition or arrangement with, or granted a trust deed for, their creditors and has not been discharged in respect of it
  • they are a person who within the preceding five years has been convicted in the British Islands of any offence if a sentence of imprisonment (whether suspended or not) for a period of not less than three months (without the option of a fine) was imposed on them
  • they are less than 16 years of age at the date they are nominated for election
  • they have already held office as a Governor of the Trust for more than six consecutive years
  • they have been convicted of an offence of fraud against the Trust.

The Trust's constitution, which sets out the various cicrumstances in which governors can be removed from the office. This can be viewed in our constitution

Put your name forward as a governor Governors - elections