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Struggling provider fails to appoint CEO

Published on: 7 Feb 2024

A struggling mental health and community trust has appointed an interim chief executive after a recruitment process failed to secure a new substantive leader.

Herefordshire and Worcestershire Health and Care Trust’s long-serving incumbent CEO Sarah Dugan is retiring in April. She announced she would be standing down back in August but board papers said the trust’s “national recruitment process” had failed to land a new permanent CEO.

Robert Mackie, currently finance director and deputy chief executive, will therefore take over as interim when Ms Dugan leaves, the paper said.

Ms Dugan, who has spent 41 years working in the NHS, including 12 as the CEO of HWHCT, wrote in the board papers that Mr Mackie will take over the role while “consideration is given to a further recruitment process”.

The appointment follows the Care Quality Commission last month announcing it was downgrading the trust’s overall and leadership ratings from “good” to “requires improvement”. The CQC’s critical report also suggested bosses at the trust had used racist language and created a closed culture.

HWHCT joins fellow Midlands organisations Royal Wolverhampton Trust and Walsall Healthcare Trust in being recently unsuccessful in recruiting a new CEO.

It emerged last month that the trusts, which share a CEO and chair leadership, had failed to appoint a new leader despite 12 applicants being considered.

Meanwhile, University Hospitals Birmingham Foundation Trust ended up appointing chief operating officer Jonathan Brotherton as CEO from a shortlist of three that did not contain a serving trust CEO. It then failed to recruit CEOs for two of its sites at the first attempt.

Ms Dugan was previously chief executive of Dudley Primary Care Trust. Before that, she held various roles within the West Midlands, including at Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust.

HWHCT said Ms Dugan, a nurse by background, had been keen to support the provider through the pandemic and into the recovery phase before retiring.