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Trust appoints fifth CEO in as many years

Published on: 4 Oct 2023

Embattled Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust has appointed a new interim chief executive just a week after incumbent Stuart Richardson stood down.

The trust has announced Caroline Donovan, a former CEO of mental health providers North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare Trust and Lancashire and South Cumbria FT, will take up the post on 23 October for 12 months.

System leaders’ have moved swiftly to appoint an interim as they desperately try and bring some stability to the trust which has seen five CEOs in as many years with the departure of its most recent boss confirmed just last Tuesday.

Former boss Mr Richardson departed after a review finding the trust lost track of patient deaths and then a subsequent BBC Newsnight investigation finding the report was edited to remove criticism of its leadership.

The scandal was the latest in a long line of damaging events and patient safety alarms at the trust over many years, and it remains in regulatory measures.

NSFT said in a statement that Donovan, a nurse by background, had overseen Lancashire and South Cumbria’s acquisition of South Cumbria Mental Health and Learning Disability Services, and the development of several new services. 

Ms Donovan left the Lancashire FT in controversial circumstances, however, in a dispute with its integrated care board over finances which became public.   

Mr Richardson took the role in September 2021, becoming the fourth person to hold the CEO role, substantively or as an interim, in the last five years.

The other three were Adam Morris (interim); Jonathan Warren (March 2019 – March 2021); and Antek Lejk (May 2018 – March 2019). Mason Fitzgerald was also appointed CEO in February 2020 – but then withdrew his application a month later after the BBC revealed he had included a bogus law degree on his CV.

Mr Richardson was the trust’s chief operating officer for three years prior to being appointed CEO.

NSFT chair Zoë Billingham said: “I am delighted to confirm Caroline’s appointment. She brings vast experience of quality improvement, transformation and leadership to our Trust which is critical as we continue to work towards consistently delivering safe, excellent care to all those who need us.”

In a joint statement the CEOs of Norfolk and Waveney Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care Boards, Tracey Bleakley and Ed Garratt, said: “Caroline particularly impressed the interview panel with her determination and commitment to co-production, ensuring staff at every level work extremely closely with people with lived experience, their families and carers to drive forward service improvement and transformation.

“Caroline has a strong track record of working with staff at all levels to bring about cultural change, which is evident from her leadership at Lancashire and South Cumbria Foundation Trust and prior to that, at North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare Trust which was awarded a rating of Outstanding by the Care Quality Commission.”