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Trust at centre of abuse scandal appoints long-serving community CEO

Published on: 5 Mar 2024

A long-serving community trust CEO has been appointed to lead the scandal-hit mental health provider in Greater Manchester.

Karen Howell has been appointed substantively to Greater Manchester Mental Health Foundation Trust, where the leadership team has been overhauled since an undercover investigation revealed shocking abuse and mistreatment within its forensic services.

subsequent review by NHS England found multiple opportunities had been missed to investigate severe staffing and cultural problems, and heavily criticised the trust’s leadership for pressuring staff not to raise safety concerns.

Ms Howell is a former nurse and has led Wirral Community Health and Care since 2015. The trust is rated ‘good’ by the Care Quality Commission. She previously held senior interim positions for health authorities in Wales and was awarded an OBE in 2023.

WCHC is one of the smallest providers in the NHS and recently handed back social care services to Wirral council after a ‘pioneering’ integration contract was deemed not to have brought the benefits envisaged.

HSJ has asked the trust if it plans to recruit a substantive replacement or whether the role could be taken over on a joint basis by a neighbouring CEO, such as Jeanelle Holmes, of Wirral University Teaching Hospitals. It has yet to respond.

Tony Warne, who was recently appointed substantive chair at GMMH, said: “Karen will be brilliant for us and, together, we will take forward our improvement journey at pace. She brings oodles of experience, and is committed to collaboration with service users, their families, and communities, in pursuit of providing high-quality services and promoting pride amongst colleagues.”

The trust added that Ms Howell has “led and delivered change in national policy for mental health and community services… more recently she has been working with NHS England as national CEO adviser on community services”.

Ms Howell said: “As an experienced leader in the NHS, I am proud to have the responsibility to lead and support the trust and its workforce to respond to the recommendations of the [NHS England] report.”

She will take over from interim chief Jan Ditheridge in June.