Governors are limited in what they can do as they have no budget for engaging with FT members independently of the Trust. Trusts organise all the formal meetings, send out all the mass communications, newsletters etc, manage social media. They don't have access to the FT membership list. So they are handicapped. There are tools such as Patient Opinion that could help engage with members, but how many trusts would pay the subscription fee of £10,000/year? How many trusts even invest in online group management systems (eg Yammer) so governors can communicate effectively with each other?
re: your suggestion that 'governors suggest they are still not fulfilling their potential as the voice of local populations on hospital boards' I would say this is not true in all cases. Last year we had over 4,600 paper responses (we have 13,000 members with 700 of these on e-mail) to our membership survey which governors read from their respective constituencies becasue we collect the first part of a postcode (no other personal details are collected). Governors then feed their constituency views (one governor nominated from three public constituencuies) back to a Board-to-Council meeting in March each year before the business plans / annual plans are finalised. Add this feedback to over x hundred inpatient and outpatient survey responses, over 400 staff surveys, over 100 real-time surveys every month on the the wards plus the latest friends and family test and you've pretty much exahusted the wider general public's voice in respect of their views which governors can tap into. Governors have access to all the above and receive presentations on the results if not reviewing themselves. The latest collection of voices is by the local CCG running numerous events around the patch of which of course our governors will be attending....as patients, members of the public and governors.