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Trusts fail to appoint group CEO

Published on: 26 Jan 2024

Two acute trusts in the Midlands have failed to fill their group CEO role despite interviewing 12 applicants, HSJ has learned.

David Loughton, currently CEO of Royal Wolverhampton Trust and Walsall Healthcare Trust, is retiring in April. However, the trusts’ first attempt to replace him has failed.

HSJ understands 12 candidates were interviewed, but none was shortlisted.

RWT and WHT said that Mr Loughton, one of the NHS’s longest-serving leaders, having spent four decades in charge of trusts, will not be staying on beyond his planned retirement date. However, they confirmed the recruitment process will restart in May, with more details, including interim arrangements, being announced in the coming weeks.

Many trusts are experiencing difficulties filling group, organisation and site CEO roles that in the past would have attracted a strong field due to the size and/or prestige.

University Hospitals Birmingham Foundation Trust ended up appointing chief operating officer Jonathan Brotherton as CEO from a shortlist of three that did not contain a serving trust CEO. It then failed to recruit CEOs for two of its sites at the first attempt.

The process to recruit a CEO for a new group  made up of Hull University Teaching Hospitals and Northern Lincolnshire and Goole Foundation Trust had to be restarted because some candidates had withdrawn. 

Mr Loughton joined RWT as CEO in 2004 and in 2021 took over neighbouring WHT after NHS England told acute trusts in the Black Country they needed to rapidly agree on a hospital group model.

Efforts to step up collaboration were bolstered in 2022 when former NHS England and Improvement chief executive Sir David Nicholson became chair of RWT and WHT in addition to his roles at Sandwell and West Birmingham Trust and Dudley Group Foundation Trust.

On announcing his departure from the trusts in October last year, Mr Loughton said: “The organisations, and the wider health economy, are in both a challenging and exciting period. We still have much to do, however, to improve our patients’ experience, particularly since covid.

“Having been a chief executive for many years, I feel now is the right time for me to take a step back. I could try to keep going forever, but I turn 70 in January, and I want to start spending more time with my family.”