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Hospital chief on long-term absence after ‘group’ move

Published on: 12 Dec 2023

The hospital chief executive which last month moved to shared leadership with a neighbouring trust is on long-term absence, and may not be returning to the role, HSJ understands. 

Heidi Smoult has been absent from her role as “hospital chief executive” of Northampton General Hospital Trust for six weeks, and HSJ understands senior figures at the organisation don’t expect her to return to the role.

Asked whether Ms Smoult would be continuing as hospital CEO, UHN director of communications Sam Holden said: “Heidi Smoult is currently away from work on medical reasons.”

It follows several years of senior leadership churn at the trust and neighbouring Kettering General Hospital.

Richard Mitchell, University Hospitals of Leicester Trust CEO, became CEO of both Northampton and Kettering General Hospital Foundation Trust, in addition to Leicester, in October. The three trusts have shared a chair, John MacDonald, since July

Ms Smoult, who has held the Northampton role since 2021, was previously a deputy chief inspector at the Care Quality Commission for seven years, and before that worked in acute trust operations roles.

However, several well-placed sources said she was not expected to return to the role.

Kettering and Northampton formed what they called a “group model” under joint leadership in 2020, but the first group CEO, Simon Weldon, unexpectedly went on a long-term absence in the autumn of last year. The trusts then had two new interim CEOs take over in the space of months

In October, the trusts said Mr Mitchell’s appointment as group CEO of all three represented the next stage of their “formal collaboration”. 

Prior to this, Kettering and Northampton had been without a substantive CEO since Simon Weldon’s departure at the end of 2022 and had two interim CEOs in the space of a few months.

HSJ asked Ms Smoult if she wanted to comment.