• Patricia Hewitt to chair Norfolk STP amid concerns about its progress
  • Systems leaders want Ms Hewitt to “bang heads together”, says senior source
  • STP interim chair John Fry welcomes the appointment

A former health secretary has been brought in to chair Norfolk and Waveney sustainability and transformation partnership, amid concerns about its progress and credibility.

Patricia Hewitt

Patricia Hewitt

Patricia Hewitt has been appointed independent chair.

One senior NHS source familiar with the development told HSJ the appointment was a “move to try and bang heads together”.

Ms Hewitt was Labour’s health secretary under Tony Blair between 2005 and 2007.

Norfolk and Waveney was among the STPs NHS England was “most concerned about”, the senior figure said. “There is a concern [the STP] does not have a credible plan, because [major partners] are just not speaking to each other,” they added.

The health economy faces a significant deficit, with the October STP document estimating a £415.6m deficit under a “do nothing” scenario. The area’s NHS providers have pledged to make significant savings under then Norfolk Provider Partnership model, which promised to publish a “comprehensive plan for Norfolk” by summer 2017.

The STP declined to address the concerns about its progress when asked about them by HSJ. An STP statement said Ms Hewitt would chair the STP’s “chairs’ oversight board”. The statement added that Wendy Thomson, the Norfolk county council chief executive, remained the STP lead and executive group chair.

In a statement announcing the appointment, Norfolk and Norwich Hospitals Foundation Trust chair John Fry welcomed Ms Hewitt. Mr Fry had been interim chair of the STP.

Mr Fry said: “I am delighted to handover this role to Patricia. [She] brings huge insight and experience and we warmly welcome her to the role.”

Ms Thomson, one of four council chiefs appointed as an STP lead last year, was not quoted in the announcement and the council did not put out a statement.

Ms Hewitt, who led the NHS through a financial crisis that emerged after years of funding growth, stood down as the MP for Leicester West MP 2010. She is a member of the Age UK development board and chair of the UK India Business Council, but she will step down from this role later this year.

The Norfolk and Norwich FT statement said she and her husband have had a home in the county for the past six years.

Other STPs have also appointed independent chairs to act as “honest brokers”.

North East London STP appointed Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy chief executive Rob Whiteman in October. NHS Confederation chair Stephen Dorrell, another former health secretary, was appointed to the role for Birmingham and Solihull STP in November.

Ms Hewitt said: “This is a crucial time in health and care services and we must work together collaboratively to continue to provide, and ensure the future of, high quality services for patients in Norfolk and Waveney.”

An STP statement said: “Wendy Thomson was appointed by NHS England in 2016 as the STP lead for the Norfolk and Waveney. Her role is to chair the STP executive team and provide executive leadership of the STP in line with guidance from NHS England.”

NHS England said in a statement NHS England was “very pleased” to see the appointment, which it said was made “for the STP by the STP”. It said it did not consider the STP as one of the STPs that it is “most concerned about”.

The statement: “Ms Hewitt’s appointment builds upon and reinforces the progress made under Wendy Thomson, the chief executive of Norfolk County Council, in her role as STP lead and executive group chair. It is a sign that the Norfolk and Waveney STP can continue to develop a strong future.”

This story was updated with NHS England’s statement on 21 June at 11:30am