The CEO of a trust with one of the lowest staff satisfaction rates in the NHS has announced she will step down next year, eight years after taking up the post.
Deborah Lee, who leads Gloucestershire Hospitals Foundation Trust, will depart in March 2024. She said the move “feels like the right time for the organisation and for me”.
Ms Lee has led the trust since 2016 and guided it to its first “good” rating by the Care Quality Commission in 2019.
However, in 2022 its rating was downgraded to “requires improvement” and the trust came under national scrutiny for its poor emergency care performance. Gloucestershire is one of several parts of the South West region which has seen very severe pressures in the wake of covid, including sky-high ambulance handover delays and delayed discharges.
That same year, Ms Lee spoke about how she had a stroke and her husband took her to hospital by car, amid fears she would face a long wait for an ambulance if they dialled 999.
The trust received the second-lowest score (43 per cent) for staff recommending their organisation as a place to work in the latest NHS Staff Survey (2022). This was a drop of 17 percentage points, from 60 per cent in 2019.
Ms Lee said the timing of her decision “has not been an easy one” and described her period as CEO as the “most challenging and yet the most rewarding of my 40-year career”.
She said: “The recent staff survey laid bare the challenges ahead and there is much to do to improve the experience of both colleagues and patients alike. We have embarked upon an ambitious programme of cultural and operational improvement and I am determined to use every day of my final year with the trust to leave a positive legacy for my successor to build upon.”
The trust is currently undergoing a reconfiguration of services between its two acute sites at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital and Cheltenham General Hospital.
Ms Lee added: “I shall be 60 in January and, having been fortunate to have recovered so well following my stroke, with an eye on the future as we come to the end of our five-year strategy and begin to think about the next chapter, this feels like the right time for the organisation and for me.
“I shall look back with sadness at the impact of the pandemic on so many lives, but also with immense pride on what we achieved during that period. I feel incredibly privileged to have had the opportunity to lead and to serve this great organisation through such a momentous time in the NHS’s 75-year history.”
Recruitment for a new CEO is under way, the trust said.