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Trust reviews leadership options as CEO leaves for scandal-hit neighbour

Published on: 22 Nov 2023

A scandal-hit acute trust has appointed the long-serving leader of a specialist provider as its substantive chief executive.

Jane Tomkinson has been in interim charge of Countess of Chester Hospital for the last year and has now been appointed substantively.

The appointment means she will leave Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital after 10 years, where she had remained as CEO on a joint basis.

CoCH is at the centre of a high-profile inquiry into its handling of concerns around Lucy Letby, a nurse convicted of multiple murders on the neonatal unit in 2015 and 2016.

There have also been serious concerns around its finances and performance, with the Care Quality Commission rating its leadership “inadequate” last year. Ms Tomkinson took over the trust following a breakdown in relations between the chair and former CEO Susan Gilby. Dr Gilby has since launched an employment tribunal claim against Ian Haythornthwaite and the trust.

In a statement, Mr Haythornthwaite said Ms Tomkinson has impressed since taking over, adding: “I am delighted to welcome Jane to the trust on a permanent basis… We believe her appointment will bring greater stability and stronger leadership.

“With an unwavering focus on improvement, and honesty and commitment at the heart of Jane’s approach, I am confident that we can continue to enhance the quality and safety of our services.”

LHCH has said it will conduct a “rapid evaluation of the options available” to secure a substantive chief. One of the options could be a joint leadership model with another trust in Liverpool, HSJ understands. The city has a unique configuration including five separate specialist trusts.

Ms Tomkinson was previously finance director at CoCH from 2004 to 2011, before working at the North of England Strategic Health Authority and then taking over at LHCH in 2013.

In the last decade, LHCH has twice been rated “outstanding” by the CQC, with the trust achieving the best staff survey scores in the country last year for staff recommending it as a place to work.

Ms Tomkinson said: “I will be extremely sad to leave Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital and the amazing people who work here… However, after 10 years, I believe now is the right time for someone else to have the privilege of leading this outstanding trust.

“At the same time, I am delighted to be joining the team at [CoCH]. In the time I have spent here this year, I have been impressed with the passion and ambition of staff to deliver the highest quality care, and to transform services for our patients and their families.”