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Chief of East Kent Hospitals Trust steps down following failings in maternity department

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Original article from Kent Live

The head of East Kent Hospitals has announced she is stepping down after four years at the helm.

Susan Acott was appointed chief of the trust, which runs QEQM, Kent and Canterbury and William Harvey Hospitals, in 2017 having served as CEO of Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust for eight years before that.

East Kent Hospitals is currently at the centre of a major maternity healthcare investigation, led by Dr Bill Kirkup, following reports of multiple baby deaths and infants left with brain injuries during birth.

Read more: Huge emergency response after man found 'in distress' in Margate

Last year the trust's board admitted the number of potentially avoidable baby deaths could be as high as 15 since 2013.

The most well-known case was that of baby Harry Richford, who died at just seven days old at QEQM Hospital in Margate. In April the trust pleaded guilty in court to one count of failing to provide safe care and treatment resulting in avoidable harm to Harry and Sarah Richford.

At its sentencing in June the trust's £1.1m fine was reduced to £733,000 due to the guilty plea.

Photo of Sarah and Tom Richford with their son Harry who died seven days after he was born in November 2017 at the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother (QEQM) Hospital in Margate.

Despite calls for her resignation when the investigation was launched in March, she will remain in her role until stepping down next spring. The investigation is due to publish its findings at around the same time.

Susan 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.

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“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.

“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. “

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

Original Article