WORKFORCE: The chief executive of Chelsea and Westminster Hospital Foundation Trust has resigned, weeks after the trust was criticised by the Care Quality Commission.

Tony Bell will remain at the trust “for the time being”, according to a spokeswoman. He will then work for NHS England on national policy “in the short term”.

Chief nurse Elizabeth McManus will take over as acting chief executive.

A senior source in the sector said the trust’s recent critical CQC inspection “was the tipping point” for the trust.

It was rated as “requiring improvement”, a blow to a trust that had been one of the most consistently high performing in the country.

Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

It is not clear what the resignation will mean for the trust’s ambitious strategic programmes

The regulator found issues with the accident and emergency department, surgery, children and young people’s services, end of life care and outpatient services.

Inspectors said the hospital’s A&E was struggling to cope with demand, and patients waited a long time for surgery, particularly for trauma, orthopaedics, urology and plastic surgery.

The trust leadership required improvement and “governance arrangements were complex and it was difficult to identify priorities for action”, according to the CQC.

The report added: “Staff felt the chief executive was visible but this was not the same for other members of the board.”

An email was sent to stakeholders on Friday announcing Mr Bell’s departure.

It is not clear what the news will mean for the trust’s ambitious strategic programmes.

These include the acquisition of West Middlesex University Hospital Trust, creating an accountable care organisation and partnership work with the Royal Brompton and Harefield Hospitals Foundation Trust.

Ms McManus became chief nurse and director of quality at the trust last year.

She has worked in the NHS for nearly 30 years and has been both a director of operations and director of nursing. Most recently she was director of nursing at York Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust.

Mr Bell said: “I believe that this is the right time for me to hand over the reins as a new trust board establishes itself and reviews its priorities for the future. We have developed a strategic direction for the trust and I feel honoured to have played a key part in leading that process with board directors.

“When I arrived at the trust we were in the midst of public consultation on the North West London strategy – Shaping A Healthier Future and our A&E services hung in the balance. I feel privileged to have played a part in securing those services and the future role of the trust as a major acute hospital for North West London.

“I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to our excellent team of staff and to the volunteers and council of governors who give so much so willingly to keep Chelsea and Westminster special.”

Chair Sir Thomas Hughes-Hallett said: “Tony has been a committed and professional [chief executive] who has made a significant contribution to the future of the trust. We have achieved a great deal under his leadership.

“He has been a visible leader and engaged both the clinicians and staff of the trust and personally championed the research, education and quality improvement strategies of the organisation. I am grateful to Tony for his great contribution that has benefited our patients, staff, and volunteers alike.”