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40-year CEO chooses not to ‘keep going forever’

Published on: 12 Oct 2023

A group CEO who is one of the longest-serving leaders in the NHS is retiring after four decades as a chief executive.

David Loughton has been Royal Wolverhampton Trust’s chief executive officer since 2004 and has held the same position at Walsall Healthcare Trust since April 2021. He announced today he would be stepping down from both trusts next March.

The trusts will begin the recruitment process for a permanent group CEO in the coming weeks.

Mr Loughton said: “The organisations, and the wider health economy are in both a challenging and exciting period. We still have much to do, however, to improve our patients’ experience, particularly since covid.

“Having been a chief executive for many years, I feel now is the right time for me to take a step back. I could try to keep going forever, but I turn 70 in January, and I want to start spending more time with my family.”

Mr Loughton started his CEO career at University Hospitals of Coventry and Warwickshire in 1986. Throughout his career, he has chaired various regional groups including the West Midlands Maternity and Newborn Network and West Midlands Cancer Alliance. He was also part of the special administration team set up to reorganise services after the Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust scandal.

Former NHS England chief executive Sir David Nicholson is chair of the four Black Country acute trusts, including RWT and WHT. He said: “David has made a tremendous contribution to the trusts during his years as CEO. He has worked tirelessly to challenge the NHS and do things differently across acute, community and primary care.

“This in turn has led to substantial improvements that have put the Black Country on the national map. He is recognised nationally for leading innovation, challenging the ‘norm’ and changing things for the better for our patients.”

Earlier this year, HSJ revealed Mr Loughton had become the first permanent CEO to be paid more than £300,000.

He took the helm of WHT after NHSE told all four acute trusts in the Black Country system they needed to “rapidly” agree on a hospital group model.

Shortly after they were appointed, Mr Loughton and his chair Professor Steve Field were criticised by an investigation into their leadership of WHT conducted by NHSE.

The probe found Mr Loughton “behaved poorly”, while Professor Field was found to be “complicit”. Both leaders apologised, and said they were “motivated by patient safety”. Professor Field retired earlier this year.