• Nick Swift quits as finance chief at Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust
  • Former BA boss was appointed in aftermath of dramatic financial collapse
  • Trust says the pace at which savings have been delivered has been slow

A finance director whose arrival was hailed as a turning point for a troubled acute trust has quit after 14 months – after it failed to deliver savings at the pace expected.

A message to staff at Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust, seen by HSJ, said finance director Nick Swift “believes he should be held to account” for its ongoing financial problems.

Mr Swift, a former chief financial officer at British Airways, joined BHRUHT in September 2018, in the aftermath of a dramatic collapse in the trust’s finances.

It was hoped his “extensive track record, experience and expertise” would help the trust with its financial turnaround.

But the message to staff, sent earlier today by interim chief executive Chris Bown, said: “Nick believes he should be held to account for the fact we are not where we should be and so he has resigned. I am disappointed he has decided to leave, but I respect his decision… Nick has agreed to stay with us until February and we will now begin the work of finding his successor.”

A spokesman said it was Mr Swift’s decision, and there had been no pressure placed on him by regulators or the board.

Prior to Mr Swift’s appointment, the trust had finished 2017-18 with a deficit of £55m, around £30m worse than planned. There had also been multiple management and governance failings identified by various external reports.

Mr Swift was appointed midway through the 2018-19, and the trust went on to report a deficit of £60m for the year, which met the forecast he had set.

After the first seven months of 2019-20, the trust reported a deficit of £31m, which was £5m worse than planned. However, the position was supported by around £4m of one-off benefits, meaning the underlying position was £9m off plan. It has targeted savings of £28m for the year (around five per cent of spending), but at month seven just £6m had been delivered, which was £9m behind plan.

In a press statement, Mr Bown said: “Our challenge has been the pace at which we have delivered savings has been slow. Nick Swift has decided he should be held to account for this and has decided to resign.

“I am disappointed he has decided to leave, but I respect his decision. I would like to pay tribute to Nick. He is a patient-focused leader who has contributed a great deal to our trust and to the NHS.”

In the trust’s November board papers, Mr Bown wrote: “The priority areas for our financial recovery continue to be reducing the number of very expensive agency and bank workers in acute medicine and replacing them with permanent staff; removing waste from the elective pathway so that our theatres are used more productively; and reducing the amount of inappropriate outpatients’ activity that we undertake.

“In the last few months of this financial year we have to reduce the gap between what we spend and what we receive so that we can enter the next financial year in a much-improved position. Achieving our financial improvement trajectory will open up opportunities for us to invest. Our forecast outturn (for a £51m deficit) has been retained at the amount we stated in our plan, but it does contain £5m to £10m of downside risk.”