WORKFORCE: Laura McMurtrie, chief executive of the troubled Avon and Wiltshire Partnership Trust, has announced she is to step down following a period of ill health.

A statement issued by the trust today said that Mrs McMurtrie was retiring, “to pursue a range of different interests”.

She has spent 35 years in public service, including the last six in charge of Avon and Wiltshire.

Mrs McMurtrie went on an extended period of leave this year due to ill health.

The announcement comes less than a month after Bath and North East Somerset and Wiltshire primary care trust cluster decided to put services currently provided by the trust out to tender. It was the second commissioner to do so, following a similar move last November by NHS Bristol.

The tenders placed income worth £77m, or 40 per cent of the trust’s revenue, under threat.

The trust has also been the subject of a number of highly critical reports published about its care of patients who went on to kill friends and family members.

Its foundation trust application is currently more than six months behind schedule.

In April, chair Felicity Longshaw resigned after five years in the post.

Interim chair Tony Gallagher acknowledged Mrs McMurtrie’s contribution to building a financially sustainable organisation and establishing a trust-wide governance system.

He said the trust would now begin recruiting a new chief, “with the skills and experience to take the trust forward”.