CEO of struggling teaching trust quits for regional role

Published on: 18 Nov 2022

University Hospitals Birmingham Foundation Trust’s chief executive, David Rosser is stepping down.

He will leave the trust at the end of the year to take up the newly created role of strategic director for digital health and care across the West Midlands.

UHB’s deputy CEO and chief operating officer Jonathan Brotherton will take over as interim CEO on 1 January 2023.

Over the past year, the teaching trust has experienced major emergency department performance problems, with repeated requests from the Department of Health and Social Care to improve in recent months.

In August, Professor Rosser was among six chiefs summoned by health and social care secretary Steve Barclay over ambulance handover delays.

Meanwhile, Therese Coffey visited UHB’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital while health secretary and said the local NHS “needed to step up”, stating accident and emergency waits in the area were “unacceptable”. In October, just 52 per cent of patients were seen within the four-hour A&E target, among the lowest percentages in the country.

UHB is also on NHS England’s lists of trusts with the worst elective and cancer delays and is receiving “tier one” support, involving “support and oversight” from national teams, and “on-site expertise and possible periodic calls between ministers and CEOs”. 

As of August, UHB had the largest 104-day cancer patient backlog of all trusts overall (725 patients), which also grew 15 per cent between June and August.

It also has some of the longest elective waits in the country, with 31,486 patients waiting more than a year for treatment as of September. Less than 40 per cent of elective patients are being treated within the 18-week national standard, the lowest in the country.

Serious questions have also been posed about UHB’s leadership recently.

Last month, HSJ reported partner organisations, as part of their oversight processes of UHB, had described its leadership style as “insular”.

Several senior sources told HSJ of growing concerns at the DHSC and NHSE about performance, and its current leaders’ ability to tackle the problems. 

The trust is also in the process of establishing chair arrangements, after failing twice to recruit substantively.

Professor Rosser’s new role will see him link up the region’s public sector digital, technology and data programmes overseen by the West Midlands Combined Authority and Birmingham and Solihull Integrated Care System

The departing CEO said: “Transformation has been my vision, and my passion, for many years. I believe that we have the biggest opportunity in a generation to completely reshape the provision of health and social care; having a life-changing impact on many.

“I have been exceptionally privileged to have held a number of roles at UHB and to have worked with so many incredible people; I am so proud, of so many things we have achieved for our patients and our colleagues.”

Professor Rosser joined UHB in 1996 as a critical care consultant. Before becoming CEO in 2018 he held the roles of deputy chief executive and executive medical director.

He oversaw the merger of University Hospitals Birmingham and the former Heart of England FT.

This February, in an interview with HSJ, he revealed his thoughts on the HEFT merger – suggesting UHB had taken over the “NHS’s biggest corporate failure”.

Interim chair Harry Reilly said of Professor Rosser’s departure: “Dave will be a massive loss to the trust, but I am pleased that he is following his long-term passion for transformation and will remain very much integral to health and care, Birmingham and beyond, in his new role.

“On behalf of the board and our council of governors, I would like to sincerely thank Dave for everything he has done for UHB and our patients over the last 26 years – as doctor, as a medical director, as a CEO, and as a colleague.”