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Tributes after death of ‘strong, fair and compassionate’ NHS chief

Published on: 21 Mar 2023

Tributes have been paid after the death of a ‘strong, fair and compassionate leader’ who was chief executive of a North West acute trust for 12 years, and previously a director in the Department of Health.

Andrew Foster, who was most recently chair of Manx Care, which appointed him at the end of 2020, died following a short illness this week.

He was also a non-executive director at Health Education England, a trustee of ENT UK and honorary president of Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust’s global training education centre.

Prior to this, Mr Foster was chief executive of WWL for 12 years until October 2019. In this time he oversaw numerous changes and the trust achieved high staff survey scores and was named HSJ Provider Trust of the Year in 2014.

After leaving WWL he worked at NHS England for a period on delivery of the NHS People Plan, and was interim lead of the NHS Leadership Academy. In 2020 he worked on the covid-19 crisis response at NHSE, including efforts to support more staff to return to clinical work.

Earlier in his career Mr Foster was the director general for workforce at the Department of Health for five years during a time of major reform in the 2000s.

He was also chair of WWL from 1996 to 2001, meaning he is thought to be the only person to have been chair and chief executive of the same provider.

WWL medical director Sanjay Arya said Mr Foster would be “sadly missed both as a well-respected and valued work colleague, but also as someone I considered a friend”.

He added: “Andrew was very passionate about patient safety, and put it at the forefront of WWL’s agenda, when he was both chairman and CEO of WWL. I will remember him as a strong, fair and compassionate leader and with great fondness.

“My thoughts and profound condolences go to Andrew’s wife Sara and his family at this sad time.”

WWL chief executive Silas Nicholls said: “Andrew made such a significant contribution, not just to WWL, but to the wider Wigan Borough, Greater Manchester and beyond. His principal focus was on quality and staff engagement, with a particular desire to learn from the best hospitals in the world. Under his leadership, WWL developed a significant reputation, winning many national awards including Provider Trust of the Year in 2014.

“Andrew was a great supporter for engaging with staff and created a culture of openness, honesty and transparency at WWL and his legacy lives on at the trust to this day.”

In a joint statement, Manx Care interim chair Sarah Pinch and CEO Teresa Cope said: “He made such an impression on so many people, without ever fully realising the impact that his sound, sage and thoughtful advice had on them.

“As a board, we will miss his friendship, his leadership, and his unrelenting commitment to improvement within the health and social care system. His legacy will live on through the significant contribution he has made both here on the Island, and further afield in the UK.”

HEE chair Sir David Behan said Mr Foster’s “passion was people, which shone through in chairing our People and Culture Committee”.

He added: “His focus on making HEE the best place to work and his relentless support for equality, diversity and inclusion made HEE a better organisation. We will miss him, his wise counsel, and his ability to ask the right question in a way that was both forensic and supportive. The NHS has lost a great friend.”