The chief executive of a successful community trust has been appointed to run the Royal Surrey County Hospital Foundation Trust.

Paula Head, currently chief executive of Sussex Community Foundation Trust, will take up the role at the Guildford-based provider in the autumn. She recently led the community trust – rated good by the Care Quality Commission – to foundation status.

The chief executive role at RSCH has been held by its former chair, Peter Dunt, as an interim measure since October 2015, when Nick Moberly left to run King’s College Hospital Foundation Trust. However, the trust has recently paused a merger with nearby Ashford and St Peter’s Foundation Trust and had an £11.4m deficit last year, with NHS Improvement saying it wanted it to find a permanent chief executive to stabilise its leadership.

John Denning, RSCH chair, said: “Paula boasts a great strategic awareness and shrewd understanding of the complex challenges facing the NHS both in the short and longer terms.

“Her combination of skills and experience will play a fundamental role in leading the Royal Surrey through its financial turnaround and adoption of the sustainability and transformation plan.”

Ms Head, who had previously worked as director of transformation at Frimley Park Hospital, said: “This has been a difficult decision but I feel now is the right time for me to move. I am leaving the trust in a strong position. I’m proud to say I have led a trust where staff are empowered to make a positive difference to people’s care. I know that will continue.”

Sue Sjuve, Sussex Community Trust chair, added: “Paula has done a fantastic job for us over the last three years and I know will continue to provide strong leadership alongside our very effective executive team and board until she hands over in the autumn.

”She leaves us having guided the trust to FT status and having created a strong, stable platform to allow us to continue to evolve to address the changing needs of the communities we serve.”