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Scandal-hit trust loses four directors

Published on: 25 Jan 2023

The trust at the centre of a maternity scandal is losing four executive directors in the space of a few months.

Deputy chief executive and director of strategic development and capital planning Liz Shutler has left East Kent Hospitals University Foundation Trust to lead “major strategic change projects” at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells Trust, HSJ understands.

Ms Shutler – who had been at the trust for at least 12 years – was described as “the conscience of the organisation” at a trust awards ceremony last year. She has been key in developing two options for the reconfiguration of the trust’s emergency and specialist services, which will require nearly £500m in capital funding from the new hospitals programme if either are to go ahead.

Meanwhile, chief operating officer Rebecca Carlton, who joined the trust in August 2020, has left to take up the group COO role at Barts Healthcare Trust. East Kent has appointed Matt Powis as its interim COO.

Director of finance and performance Phil Cave - who was one fo the the longest serving executives on the board, having joined in 2017 - will leave at the end of the financial year to join Hertfordshire Partnership Trust as chief finance officer. 

The trust’s chief nursing and midwifery officer Sarah Shingler, who has been in post since June 2021, is also leaving, although not until the summer, when she will take up the role of chief nursing officer at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals Trust. HSJ was told she has family members in the Worcestershire area and wanted to be closer to them. She will take on the additional role of deputy chief executive during her remaining time with East Kent.

East Kent said Ms Shingler had overseen a number of improvements during her time with the trust, including a staffing review which led to an additional 400 nurses being recruited; the creation of a patient voice strategy; and improvements in maternity and neonatal care.

She also helped the trust prepare for the Kirkup report into maternity and neonatal care at East Kent from 2009 to 2020. This was highly critical of the trust’s previous leadership and said that a series of chairs and chief executives were “wrong” to believe the organisation was providing acceptable care during this period.

Published in October, it found 45 cases where the death of babies could have been prevented and 48 per cent of the 202 cases it looked into could have been different, if care had met nationally recognised standards.

HSJ was told the trust does not see the departures as linked to its care quality problems and the Kirkup report.

The moves also follow the arrival at East Kent of chair Niall Dickson in April 2021 and chief executive Tracey Fletcher in April last year. The pair have acknowledged the trust failed women and their families. The trust has seen substantial senior executive turnover in recent years, including three CEOs between April 2017 and April 2022, and only a single executive director remaining the same throughout that period.


Updated 17.00 25 January with details of Mr Cave’s departure.