Susan Acott will be leaving East Kent Hospitals as Chief Executive next spring, four years after taking up the role after being appointed as the Trust’s substantive CEO in April 2018.
She 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 undoubtedly the most challenging period we have seen in the NHS.
“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.”
However, during Susan’s term as CEO the Trust has also been in the spotlight over a number of avoidable baby deaths, including that of seven day old Harry Richford.
Following a fight by his parents, Tom and Sarah, for an inquest and a campaign for justice led by grandfather Derek Richford, the trust was charged with failing to provide safe care and treatment.
The Trust was fined a total of £761,170 – inclusive of costs – for failing to discharge its duty to provide safe care and treatment, resulting in avoidable harm with the death of Harry and sub standard care of his mum.
An independent investigation was also launched in February 2020 when. NHS England and NHS Improvement commissioned Dr Bill Kirkup to carry out an independent review into the circumstances of the maternity deaths at QEQM and William Harvey hospitals.
The move came alongside a report by the Health and Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB) which found recurrent patient safety risks at the Trust maternity sites at QEQM and William Harvey Hospital.
Since Harry’s inquest a number of families have come forward over the preventable deaths of their babies.
The Trust also admitted blame in the death of six week old Luchii Gavrilescu due to tuberculosis which could have been prevented if action to diagnose and treat his father for TB)had been taken almost two years before and admitted ‘sub standard care’ that resulted in the death of baby Archie Batten just 27 minutes after he was born.
Two Thanet groups, Save Our NHS in Thanet and Thanet Stroke Campaign, also took a case to the High Court – alongside Medway Council- to fight the decision made by a Joint Committee of Clinical Commissioning Groups’ (JCCCG) to remove acute stroke services from six hospitals in favour of three specialised units for Kent and Medway.
The legal action failed but the campaign is ongoing.
The search for a new CEO is now underway.
Susan 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 was previously CEO at Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust for eight years. She started her career on the NHS General Management Training Scheme, having graduated from Birmingham University. Before becoming chief executive at Dartford and Gravesham she worked in the NHS in Manchester, Merseyside, York and London.