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‘Stability at the top’ key concern for Whittington Hospital bosses following departures

Interim chief executive of Whittington Health Simon Pleydell said ensuring stability at the top was a key goal for the trust. Picture: Polly Hancock Interim chief executive of Whittington Health Simon Pleydell said ensuring stability at the top was a key goal for the trust. Picture: Polly Hancock

Friday, May 2, 2014
2:00 PM

Stability at the top has become a major priority for the leadership team at the Whittington Hospital after a series of sudden departures.

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Amid uncertainty over the future of the hospital, interim chief executive Simon Pleydell told the Ham&High efforts to “steady the ship” had now become a key focus for the 
organisation.

“At the moment we don’t have a settled team,” admitted the former chief executive of South Tees Hospitals Foundation Trust.

“We have a number of members of the board who are interim appointments – including myself – so we need to make sure we attract the best people for those posts and build a steady team that can take the organisation forward.

“There’s obviously a big correlation between stability of leadership and confidence among staff and the community.

“Recruiting a good team will help improve that.”

Whittington Health, the trust which runs the hospital in Magdala Avenue, Archway, has seen several of its board members quit over the past few months, prompting further speculation of unrest.

This includes the shock resignation in March of chief executive, Dr Yi Mien Koh.

Mr Pleydell said it could take six to nine months before the trust can develop a clearer vision of the hospital’s future.

Integrated care and gaining Foundation Trust status are said to be pivotal features of the trust’s future.

Rebuilding bridges with the community is also seen as a major goal for the board.

It follows the disastrous plan to sell off some of the hospital’s buildings last year, a project that prompted mass protests and led to an embarrassing U-turn.

“Community engagement is easy to say but it’s not easy to do well,” said Mr Pleydell.

“One thing you notice when you come to the Whittington is how much the local population loves their hospital.

“We need to make sure we have a shared vision with the community about what the future of the organisation will be.

“Perhaps there isn’t enough clarity at the moment, but that will come.

“I’m a firm believer that trust is created through actions and I think the important thing for everyone to do is to sit down and work together.”

Shirley Franklin, of Defend the Whittington Hospital Coalition, welcomed Mr Pleydell’s comments.

“Instability at the top has bred anxiety among both staff and the community,” she said.

“We want to have a positive relationship with the board but that can only happen if the community can trust them.

“Mr Pleydell seems to be someone who is committed to the NHS.

“What we don’t want is privateers or people imposing cuts – we want to protect our hospital from that.”

The trust admits one of its challenges is balancing the books.

While refraining from mentioning “cuts”, the trust admits there are a number of “efficiency savings” which could be made.

This includes fixing the “high amount spent on agency staff” and “reducing unnecessary waste”.

But Mr Pleydell – a chief executive for over 15 years – said the community and hospital staff should be confident about the future.

“I am a very experienced pair of hands so I know what good looks like,” he said.

“And the performance of this organisation is really good.

“There may be some challenges but we have some terrific clinical teams here – and that’s a key strength.”

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