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NHS trouble-shooter appointed chair of trust where governors are resisting merger

Published on: 16 Nov 2021

One of England’s smallest trusts – which is in dispute with its governors over an impending merger – has appointed a new chair.

Anita Donley has been named chair of Queen Victoria Hospital Foundation Trust, as work continues to complete a merger with University Hospitals Sussex.

The role was originally set to be filled by former Royal College of Nursing chief executive Peter Carter, but he had to withdraw for health reasons.

Appointing a new chair was a requirement put in place by NHS Improvement, which has imposed additional conditions on the trust’s licence including an effective order to merge with UHS.

Dr Donley chaired Mid and South Essex sustainability and transformation partnership between 2016 and 2020, at a point when the STP was subject to regulatory intervention through NHS England’s “success regime”.

During her tenure, three of the STP’s acute providers merged to form Mid and South Essex Foundation Trust in April 2020.

QVH, which is based in East Grinstead, faces financial and clinical challenges, and is already working more closely with the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton, part of University Hospitals Sussex. However, many consultants and governors are concerned that its specialist services would suffer if it was to merge with its neighbour.

Steve Jenkin, chief executive at QVH, said: “I am confident that Anita will use her experience in managing strategic change and system working to ensure QVH works through the challenges ahead with good governance and meaningful engagement with staff, patients, our governors and the public.”

Dr Donley said: “I am honoured to be asked to become chair of a hospital with such a strong reputation for both clinical outcomes and compassionate care. From my previous work, I have some understanding of both the strengths of the hospital and the challenges that QVH is facing.

“I look forward to talking to staff and other key stakeholders in the coming weeks and building a deeper knowledge and understanding of the trust.”

She retired from practice as a consultant physician in 2019.