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Aussie return

Lesley Dwyer’s departure from Medway Foundation Trust later will be greeted with dismay in many quarters of the health service, including health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt who is a fan of the plain-speaking chief executive.

Ms Dwyer, who had left family in Australia to take up the Medway job, has been widely praised for turning around a particularly challenging trust and for bringing stability to the top table after years of interim executives.

The Aussie is the “sort of CEO the NHS would do well to retain if possible”, opined one familiar commentator, who also noted the inherent risk of recruiting people from the other side of the world.

The trust still has much to do, as Ms Dwyer is the first to admit, and has a worryingly high deficit. But it is no longer a byword for poor care, with its mortality rates much improved.

It is a job part done, however, and the Care Quality Commission are likely to recognise that in its forthcoming inspection report.

Having got off the bottom with a “requires improvement” rating last year, the trust is likely to remain at that level this time around having been inspected at a time of intense pressure.

The detail of the report, however, may recognise the progress that Ms Dwyer feels is being made and will eventually lead to a higher rating.

More work to do

The government may have hoped it was off the hook after awarding NHS staff a 3 per cent pay rise in the Agenda for Change deal.

But in its most recent report, the NHS Pay Review Body has made clear that there is much more work to be done if the severe workforce shortages are to be tackled in the next decade.

Although the PRB has welcomed the pay deal it has said in no uncertain terms that the government and trusts need to focus on the supply and recruitment of AfC staff, for which there is no quick fix.

With over 30,000 nursing and more than 10,000 medical vacancies nationwide, there is intense pressure on the now delayed workforce strategy to tackle recruitment and retention.

Meanwhile, there could be trouble on the horizon from ambulance staff – as AfC union GMB are planning a “consultative ballot” next month to measure the strength of feeling among its members. As the only union to reject the pay deal, industrial action could be on the cards.