The Bloomsbury Colleges | PhD Studentships | Studentships 2014 | Investigating The Governance of NHS Mental Health Foundation Trusts
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Investigating The Governance Of NHS Mental Health Foundation Trusts

Principal Supervisor: Pauline Allen, (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine)

Co- Supervisor: Sue Konzelmann, (Birkbeck)

NHS Foundation Trusts (FTs) are NHS-owned organisations benefiting from greater autonomy from central control; and with staff, patients and members of the public involved in running services. Local accountability is enhanced by (in addition to local statutory bodies), FT staff, patients and people living locally having the right to become members and vote for a board (or council) of governors. The majority of the governors must be elected by the public members, and there must be at least three governors representing members of staff of the FT. The governors are meant to work with the board of directors in setting the strategic goals of the FT.  In line with research into board effectiveness in general (e.g. 1), research and official inquiries about FT hospitals have found that governors have not been entirely effective in carrying out these roles (2, 3).

For mental health services (MHS), the issue of patient and carer involvement in decision making is of great importance: many patients have long term conditions which require life time use of MHS; and there is a long history of attempts to improve patient involvement in decision making, both at individual and strategic level (4).

The question of whether and how FTs running MHS are able meaningfully to involve patients as governors is therefore important.

The aim of the PhD is to investigate the effectiveness of the patient governors of MHS FTs in carrying out their functions, and whether there is any added value in having patient governors.

The objectives are to investigate:

  • How and why patients choose to become governors
  • What training and support is offered to patient governors
  • How  patients carry out their roles as governors, including how they relate to other governors and senior management of MHS FTs; and to other members and patients of their FTs
  • How patient governors interact with other forms of patient involvement in their FTs
  • How the effectiveness of patient governors can be measured

Candidate requirements

It is essential that candidates have a Masters degree in a social science subject (such as economics, management or public policy); and desirable that they have in depth knowledge of the NHS and mental health services.

Key References

  1. Brown, W (2005) ‘Exploring Association Between Board and Organizational Performance in Nonprofit Organizations.’ Nonprofit Management and leadership. 15(3): 317-39.
  2. Allen, P., Wright, J., Townsend, J., Dempster, P., Hutchings, A., Keen, J. (2012) ‘Organisational form as a mechanism to involve staff, public and users in public services: a study of the governance of  NHS Foundation Trusts’ Social Policy and Administration 46(3): 239–257
  3. Francis, R. (2013) Report of the  Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Enquiry
  4. Young, I.  (2000) Inclusion and democracy  Oxford University Press

Further details about the project may be obtained from:

Principal Supervisor: Pauline Allen,,

Co- Supervisor: Sue Konzelmann,,

Further information about PhDs at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine is available from:

Application forms and details about how to apply are available from:

The closing date for this studentship is 20 June 2014.