I refer to the article about the cost of the innovative scheme for elections to health boards: a cost which experience would suggest was unwarranted given the low turnout ("Every vote cast in health board elections cost £12", The Herald, February 6).

I would further suggest the experiment was no improvement on the current system for appointing non-executive board members; indeed, quite the reverse. A local election system could result in appointing members with strong political affiliations or activists promoting a single issue whereas a board member requires to take a broader unbiased view.

The present system does, I believe, produce such persons. Potential board members must apply to a public advertisement and thereafter be subjected to a rigorous assessment and interview process within which any political affiliations must be declared. The Health Secretary retains the final decision on appointments. This process should insure the most appropriate people are appointed.

Loading article content

I endorse the views expressed by the deputy chairman of the BMA that it is much more important to invest in front line services than in elections to health boards. To spend an estimated £12 million on what seems to have been a flawed, if well intentioned, initiative at the expense of patient care would, in my opinion, be most inappropriate.

I was also concerned about the views apparently expressed by some elected board members that they merely rubber stamped decisions made by executive members. It is the primary function of non-executive board members to question and constructively challenge recommendations from professional staff and monitor their activities. This is a vitally important role for non-executive members in any setting and when I was chairman of an NHS board this was clearly understood and practised.

The board was composed of very able non-executive members from a wide variety of backgrounds recruited by the public process I have described. If it isn't broken don't fix it.

Professor George L Irving CBE,

St Leonard's Road,