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East Kent Hospital Chief Executive Susan Acott to step down

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The chief executive of a controversy-hit hospitals trust is to step down next year.

Susan Acott will be leaving East Kent Hospitals University Trust (EKHUT) next spring, four years after taking up the role.

Susan Acott is to step down in the spring
Susan Acott is to step down in the spring

Mrs Acott oversaw the trust, which operates hospitals in Ashford, Canterbury, Dover, Folkestone and Margate, during one of the most turbulent times in its history.

This includes the unprecedented maternity scandal sparked by the "wholly avoidable" death of baby Harry Richmond at QEQM hospital in November 2017.

The CQC started a formal criminal investigation into baby Harry's death in October 2019 and the trust was charged with exposing him and his mother to significant risk of avoidable harm.

Harry's death led to numerous other cases of maternity incidents emerging, and last year the hospital trust's board admitted the number of potentially avoidable baby deaths could be as many as 15 in seven years.

Mrs Acott is likely to leave before an independent standard of care inquiry – said to have collected reports from more than 200 families who believe they recieved poor clinical care at one of the trust's hospitals – is published

Harry Richford died at QEQM Hospital
Harry Richford died at QEQM Hospital

A spokesman for EKHUT said that Mrs Acott was leaving to "pursue her interests in helping improve health and wellbeing in coastal communities".

Mrs Acott said: “When I came to east Kent I came knowing the trust faced a number of challenges but I was impressed by the quality and calibre of our staff and a number of high-quality services we were able to provide.

"It has been a privilege and a pleasure to work alongside the staff, our partners, governors and the board and to have the opportunity to bring about a number of changes and improvements for our patients.

"I therefore feel this is the right time to step aside and for the trust to find its next CEO who will take the organisation forward on the next stage of its improvement journey."

The chairman of East Kent Hospitals, Niall Dickson CBE, said: “Susan has done a remarkable job taking this organisation through the global pandemic which is undoubtably the most challenging period we have seen in the NHS.

QEQM in Margate is one hospital under the trust's care
QEQM in Margate is one hospital under the trust's care

“Her leadership skills, dedication, commitment, and resilience have made such a difference during this time and the whole Board is immensely grateful for all that she has achieved.

“Under her leadership we have made progress in many areas.

"Before the pandemic hit, the trust’s performance across the key national targets had improved significantly: with shorter waiting times for patients in A&E; faster treatment for cancer patients and no patients waiting over 52 weeks for treatment.

“We are now working incredibly hard to see those patients who were not able to be seen during the pandemic, but this will be greatly helped by our new orthopaedic centre which Susan did so much to bring about.

"She has also been key in attracting the investment for our new intensive care unit which is currently being built and the expansion of our two emergency departments.

“Under her leadership we have made progress in many areas..."

“Susan has also led the change to a clinically-led organisation and under her leadership, we have embarked on an internationally recognised programme of quality improvement which will be a lasting legacy as we empower our staff and seek to create excellence across all our services.

“The search for Susan’s successor will begin immediately. We still face many challenges to ensure we can provide consistently high standards of care for all patients, but we believe that this organisation has huge potential, and we will be looking for a dynamic chief executive to work with the board, our governors, our staff and our partners to take us on the next stage of this journey and create the best possible health care services for the people of East Kent."

Mrs Acott will continue with her role as a member of the NHS Staff College Advisory Council and is currently a board member on the NHS Employers Policy Board.

She will be expanding her interests in the areas of leadership, organisational development and healthcare for coastal populations.

To keep up-to-date with all the latest developments with your local hospitals and other health stories, click here.

Read more: All the latest news from Kent

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