The chair of troubled Colchester Hospital University Foundation Trust, the hospital accused of manipulating cancer patients’ data last year, is stepping down.

The trust announced Sally Irvine, its chair since 2010, was leaving later this year and it would begin the recruitment process for a successor in the “next few weeks”.

Dr Irvine said this was “the right time” to go and that she would be concentrating on other commitments with a string of organisations she is already involved in.

The trust, which is awaiting the findings of an independent inquiry following the Care Quality Commission accusing it of manipulating cancer patients’ data last year, is in special measures and subject to a police investigation.

Dr Irvine said: “Since [the trust was placed in special measures last year] the trust board has been working hard to develop and implement a number of action plans designed to ensure that every one of our patients receives good quality care.

“An assurance review conducted by NHS England earlier this year indicated that the rust is making progress against these action plans.

“It recognised that there have been a number of improvements, particularly that members of staff are more confident and engaged compared with a year ago, and that patients and visitors the NHS England review team spoke to were very complimentary about the care and treatment they received.

“Much remains to be done and we cannot be complacent about the size of the task ahead but I feel that with help, we have identified the issues to be addressed and we have turned the corner.

“I would also like to take this opportunity to thank my colleagues inside and outside the trust, particularly the many loyal and devoted staff at our various hospitals.

“They are a remarkable group of people. It never fails to amaze me how tremendously dedicated NHS staff really are.”

Dr Irvine remains a member of the Professional Standards Authority, where she chairs its scrutiny committee, and a member of the Council of the University of Essex.

She previously chaired Newcastle City Health Trust for seven years, and is a director and trustee of the international Britten-Pears Foundation, a board director and trustee of the Aldeburgh Cinema Trust and a trustee of numbers of other charities.

She is also an honorary fellow of the Royal College of General Practitioners.