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The NHS’ plot to have one chair to rule them all is in full swing as one of its former deputy chief executives has returned.

Matthew Swindells will chair Chelsea and Westminster Hospital Foundation Trust, The Hillingdon Hospitals FT, Imperial College Healthcare Trust and London North West University Healthcare FT when he takes up the role in April 2022.

A former senior policy adviser to the then health secretary Patricia Hewitt, before becoming NHS England’s first chief information officer, will be chair of four trusts this spring – a first.

This has been coming for some time as HSJ previously reported NHS England had been seeking a “low ego” leader to chair north west London’s four acute trusts.

It is the single largest group of trusts under a shared chair in the country by far and comes amid an increasing trend of providers deciding to share their leadership arrangements, particularly in London.

It is increasingly common for two trusts to have a single chair or chief executive, or both, while Russell Hardy is the only known chair of three organisations in England – covering George Eliot Hospital, South Warwickshire FT and Wye Valley Trust.

Which trusts will be next?

Worse before it gets better 

Elective waiting lists are likely to continue growing until March 2024 and the NHS England target for eliminating two-year elective waiters has been pushed back from March to July 2022.

The announcements were made in the government’s NHS recovery plan, published yesterday. Health and social care secretary Sajid Javid confirmed, as trailed, that NHSE had also committed to eliminate 52-week elective wait breaches – which currently stand at over 300,000 – by 2025. 

The targets are based on the assumption that “around half the ‘missing demand’, around five million patients, from the pandemic returns over the next three years,” the document itself says. It was acknowledged that the amount of “lost referral” which returns to the system is incredibly challenging to predict.

Delivery Plan for Tackling the Covid-19 Backlog of Elective Care sets out a series of staging post targets on the road to eliminating all 52-week waits by March 2025.

The document says that by:

  • July 2022: no patient will wait longer than two years for elective care
  • April 2023: no patient will wait over 18 months
  • March 2024: no patient will wait longer than 65 weeks, and the waiting list will be falling

Also on today

Our weekly take on tech The Download explains why clinicians have been critical of targets for remote appointments, and in news, Nick Carding looks at how NHSE’s new transformation directorate will operate.