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Trust's recruitment process for new CEO under fire

Published on: 6 Feb 2022

A major acute trust has defended its recruitment process for a new chief executive after an influential MP criticised what she sees as a lack of involvement from local stakeholders.

Liverpool University Hospitals Foundation Trust is set to hold interviews for the post on Tuesday, having run a modified process partly due to covid restrictions.

When appointing its last CEO in 2019, candidates gave presentations to 50 local stakeholders, such as staff representatives, local authority figures, and other organisations that work with the trust.

But in the latest process, the trust said it modified its approach “to reflect covid restrictions and good infection and control practices including limiting the number of people meeting face-to-face in one room”.

Candidates were instead given a contact list of board members, staff, partners, and stakeholders with whom they could choose to organise a one-to-one meeting prior to interview, with information from the meetings fed back to the appointment panel.

Rosie Cooper, MP for West Lancashire, told HSJ she was concerned about the appointment being made without significant input from stakeholders.

She added: “No one knows who was long listed, no one knows who’s being interviewed on Tuesday. I cannot understand what they are frightened of, or what they’re hiding.”

Ms Cooper, a former chair of Liverpool Women’s Hospital FT, is a highly influential figure in Liverpool, having helped expose serious patient safety issues within the city’s community services, and highlighting issues that led to leadership changes at Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group.

LUHFT said it took advice on the process from NHS England and Hunter Healthcare recruitment agency, and that 559 staff, 12 governors, and 12 stakeholders had provided responses to a consultation about the characteristics and qualities needed in the new CEO, which was used to shape the job description.

It said the role was publicly advertised and staff have been updated at various stages.

Large stakeholder panels can also prompt concerns about candidates’ names’ being leaked, which could discourage people from applying if they are employed elsewhere.

Trust chair Sue Musson added: “I am personally responsible for and committed to ensuring a fair and robust recruitment process. We are focused on appointing the best candidate to lead LUHFT on our improvement journey to provide safe, quality care to our patients and to create the culture and working environment for our staff that meet the highest standards.

“As with any recruitment process, it is good practice to respect the fact that candidates are currently employed by other organisations.”

The trust’s previous CEO Steve Warburton stepped down last year after the trust was heavily criticised by the Care Quality Commission. Sir David Dalton is acting as interim CEO.