We have been speaking to the Trust’s governors to learn about the role they play and why they wanted to get more involved with St George’s.

Padraig Belton, who represents the rest of England on our Council of Governors, told us what inspired him to become a governor and what has impressed him about the work of our teams.

Why did you want to become a governor?

“I wanted a chance to become more involved with NHS hospitals during the Coronavirus pandemic. I joined St John Ambulance to volunteer in London A&E departments, and the governor role has let me add a better understanding of policy and governance of an NHS Trust.

“St George’s has made hugely impressive strides forward since the Care Quality Commission pointed out improvements that needed to be made in 2016. Key in this turnaround has been a marked improvement in governance, with a new board coming in, offering strategic plans and new approaches. Public governors have played an involved and important role in this turnaround, and I wanted to be part of it.

“I’m extremely honoured to serve St George’s as a public governor, and be part of the next stage of its exciting journey forward.”

Tell us about your connection with St George’s?

“I’ve had many friends be part of St George’s over the years—as students, junior doctors, nurses, and patients. For years, family and friends of mine have benefited from the excellent care at St George’s.

“St George’s is also one of four major trauma centres in London. Just before I got married, I cycled from Land’s End to John o’ Groats to help raise money for a portable CT scanner for one of the other trauma units, which has kept me very interested in trauma care.

“Like the NHS as a whole, it represents the very best of the UK. And, being myself an Irish citizen, during the pandemic’s worst days the newspapers back home were proudly full of features about the busy role of Irish nurses and doctors in St George’s A&E.”

What do you enjoy about being a governor?

“Being a governor is really a phenomenal learning experience. Governors need to keep informed personally about everything from finance and investment, to quality and safety, and longer-term strategic planning in a marvellously complex Trust.

“Our key job, which is one of strategy, oversight, and accountability, is to represent the public and hold non-executive directors to account. It’s an exciting and meaningful role.”

What are some of the differences or challenges of representing people from the rest of England?

“St George’s is a truly fascinating mix: as well as providing A&E and maternity care for people in Merton and Wandsworth, it also provides heart and lung surgery, kidney transplantation, and neurosurgery to a much broader catchment of about 3.5 million people, reaching out to Surrey and Sussex.

“I represent this bigger “rest of England” public. It’s an exciting opportunity, though representing a bigger and more dispersed group of people has its challenges.”

What are your thoughts on the way St George’s and its staff have responded to the Covid-19 pandemic?

“St George’s staff have proved nothing short of phenomenal and awe-inspiring during Coronavirus. I’ve been so impressed, as a governor, to learn the details about how much of themselves they have given to their patients. In my opinion, no finer people and professionals ever existed.

“As well as tripling St George’s ITU capacity to treat Covid-19 patients, the Trust also built with terrifying speed a new NHS surgery treatment centre on the Queen Mary’s Hospital site. This started seeing patients less than four months after ground was broken, in direct response to the pandemic causing longer waiting times for surgery.

“Obviously, there will be lessons after we can all learn. The British Medical Association and Patients Association pointed out in May many UK hospitals could do a better job communicating with the public, and I think there will be an important opportunity for Governors to make sure the public’s right to access information about public institutions is represented.”