Trade union representatives have had a place on Trust Boards since 2001 and a review carried out by a group, including Trust Chairs, Chief Executives and union representatives has been underway for the last two years.
Their role is seen as key to helping improve internal communications with NHS staff, an issue highlighted by healthcare workers in recent staff surveys.
Speaking at the Welsh Partnership Forum Conference, which brings together health services managers and unions, Health Minister Edwina Hart said:
Trade unions have a valuable role to play in helping represent the views of frontline staff and that is why it is so important that they have a voice at the most senior level in the hospital.
As a result they have had a place on Trust Boards since 2001. I believe staff and managers have found their knowledge, experience and perspective useful in helping inform decisions.
Over the last two years a thorough review has been underway to consider how their role could be further strengthened.
I am happy to launch this new handbook for trade union representatives on Trust Boards, which I hope they will find useful taking forward their work for the benefit of staff and patients. It clarifies the unique role of the rep in relation to the other Board members and includes a model framework for Local Partnership Forum agreements.
On top of this, they will undergo mandatory training like other members of the Trust Boards to enhance their skills, including Board Development, an E-Learning induction and guidance programme, and action learning sets.
Peter Finch, Chartered Society of Physiotherapists and Joint Chair of the Welsh Partnership Forum, said:
The role of the NHS workforce in developing the service in Wales is crucial and it is equally important for their representatives to be part of and contribute towards the decision making process at all levels.
Head of Health at Unison, Dave Galligan, added:
This is a welcome development in the whole staff involvement and partnership models of working at local NHS Trust level. As Trust Board members these representatives with new responsibilities can now play a full role in responding to the new challenges facing NHS Wales.
The Health Minister Edwina Hart will address the Conference at the Copthorne Hotel, Copthorne Way, Culverhouse Cross, Cardiff on Thursday, 15 November at 11.30am.
The conference, which aims to raise the awareness of the Handbook not only to the trade union reps but also to the wider audience of Chairs, Chief Executives, Executive and Non-Executive Directors, runs until Friday, 16 November.
The trade union representative on Trust Boards is nominated locally by all healthcare unions to represent the views of all their members, but is also representative of the workforce as a whole.
Working in Partnership at Trust Boards: A Handbook for Trade Union Representatives at Trust Boards is available as a downloadable pdf from the Welsh Partnership Forum web pages at www.wales.gov.uk/partnershipforum
15 November 2007