The must-read stories and debate in health policy and leadership.

The chief executive at West Suffolk Foundation Trust, where leaders have been accused of bullying staff during a ‘witch hunt’ for a whistleblower, is to leave the post, we revealed late on Tuesday.

Steve Dunn will step down later this summer, the trust confirmed after being approached by HSJ, with deputy chief Craig Black stepping up to interim chief.

Mr Dunn said in a statement that the last 18 months had “presented operational, structural and cultural challenges within the trust, with a challenging Care Quality Commission inspection locally and the overwhelming impact of the pandemic taking a toll on us all”.

The chief executive’s departure follows HSJ revealing in April that the medical director and chief operating officer were also vacating their posts.

The trust’s problems have been sadly plentiful, since the CQC rated it outstanding rating in 2018. It was the first DGH to achieve the accolade and it is worth pointing out it was Mr Dunn who led them to that significant achievement.

In late 2019 it became embroiled in what was described as a “witch hunt” after the trust’s leadership ordered staff to give their fingerprints and handwriting samples as they tried to determine who had released confidential patient information.

Its CQC rating then tumbled two notches to requires improvement – an unprecedented fall – and the trust was put in special measures in January 2020.

Ministers set up what they said would be a “rapid assessment” review to investigate the bullying claims which was due to report in April 2020.

This review has still not been published and HSJ now understands it won’t even be given to NHS England and Improvement, who have operational control over it until late October.

Some of the early delays to the reports progress could be explained by the arrival of covid in March 2020, sucking up all the bandwidth to an unprecedented degree. But covid does not explain a delay of what will be over 18 months at best if the report appears this autumn.

One senior figure said the issue was like a “festering, open wound” for those inside the trust and the local health economy, who wanted to address matters and try and move on.

That healing process – which will be lengthy, painful and challenging – cannot even begin to start until the review is published. The sooner this process can begin the better for everyone caught up in this tragic affair.

The chosen one

White smoke was (metaphorically) seen pluming from Skipton House’s towers yesterday afternoon when the new NHS England ‘pope’ had been chosen. 

Amanda Pritchard will take the service’s top job when Sir Simon Stevens steps down later this month, HSJ understands. 

When she does, she will be the first woman to lead the NHS since the health service was created in 1948.

Ms Pritchard, the current chief operating officer of NHS England, fought off competition from the likes of KPMG partner Mark Britnell, Tom Riordan, chief executive of Leeds City Council and Conservative peer Baroness Dido Harding.

HSJ understands Ms Pritchard has been offered and accepted the role – but the final confirmation process is not yet complete.