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

Kettering General Foundation Trust and Northampton General Hospital Trust have announced plans to appoint a joint CEO — echoing similar decisions around the country — as part of a newly-developed shared management structure.

The Northamptonshire hospitals will begin headhunting as part of a set of plans to develop a “group management model”, which they say will benefit patient care and attract new staff among other improvements. 

They have already experimented with shared governance, appointing a joint chair, Alan Burns, in December 2018. But they have two substantive chief executives – and it’s not been revealed whether current CEOs, Sonia Swart at Northampton and Simon Weldon at Kettering, will apply for the new role.

Further joint governance roles will be appointed in due course, although separate boards will for now be retained.

The move means Kettering and Northampton join a growing list of trusts with shared chiefs and in “group” type models. These include the likes of East Lancashire Hospitals Trust, whose chief executive was asked in April to lead Blackpool Teaching Hospitals FT, while Salford Royal FT and South Warwickshire FT have taken over leadership of struggling neighbours in recent years.

Kettering and Northampton both deny that a merger is in the pipeline, but bosses hope the move will nonetheless mean that patients and employees will see fewer differences between infrastructure and services.

Meanwhile, in London, Sian Bates, chair of Kingston Hospital FT, will also be chairing Hounslow and Richmond Community Healthcare Trust. Ms Bates is the third shared chair to be appointed in London in the past 12 months.

And earlier this week Royal Devon and Exeter and North Devon trusts signalled more joint working.

A picture of chaos

This week, the Parliamentary Health Service Ombudsman admitted to multiple failures in an investigation it carried out into the death of Averil Hart — a young woman with anorexia who died following care failings by services in Cambridgeshire and Norfolk.

The failures leading to the death of 19-year-old Ms Hart in 2012 were the subject of a high-profile report by the PHSO in 2017.

However, an internal review into the PHSO’s initial investigation has found “significant failings” in the regulator’s approach — not least that it took three-and-a-half years from the point at which Averil’s father, Nic Hart, first made a complaint in 2014 to the publication of the PHSO’s report, which it warned sometimes led to information being lost. 

Mr Hart said the latest review “paints a picture of chaos”, but added it failed the delve into the poor quality of the investigation. He noted the sheer length in time taken meant lessons could not be learned and changes made by the organisations in question. 

Coroners in Cambridgeshire are currently investigating potential links between failures in Averil’s care and the subsequent deaths of four other women with eating disorders who were being treated by the same services.