• System leaders launch second attempt to recruit permanent chair for Essex success regime
  • NHS England regional team insists project has “not been delayed” as a result of the protracted appointment process
  • Success regime has been downsized to focus on just central and south Essex

System leaders have launched a second attempt to recruit a permanent chair for the Essex success regime, which has been scaled down to focus on just the middle and south of the county.

A job advert was put on recruitment agency Veredus’ website on 29 December, nearly seven months after the county was first named as one of three areas included in the new flagship NHS improvement programme.

Basildon Hospital

Basildon Hospital

Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals is in the success regime area

National system leaders said in June the success regime would help turn around areas with serious care quality, performance and financial challenges.

The advert said the “permanent” job of independent chair of the Essex success regime programme board would be based in Basildon or Chelmsford. No salary was specified.

The successful candidate would “likely… be a seasoned chair or have operated at regional/national level in a strategic leadership and transformational role and have influenced change across organisational boundaries”.

NHS England’s Midlands and East team told HSJ interviews had taken place in October for the role but none of the applicants “had the required experience or skills”.

HSJ understands the lack of progress on the Essex success regime has been a source of frustration among senior figures in the Department of Health and the NHS.

The other two areas placed in the regime – north Cumbria and northern, eastern and western Devon – appointed their chairs last autumn.

Following the unsuccessful first search for an Essex chair, system leaders drafted in UCLPartners managing director Sir David Fish to chair “a system leaders oversight group” as an interim measure.

The NHS England regional team said this week “work on the success regime in Essex is continuing and has not been delayed as a result of not appointing a programme director”.

NHS England also confirmed the Essex project would now only focus on central and southern areas, not the whole county as first indicated. These areas includes five of the seven clinical commissioning groups and three of the five acute trusts in the county.

Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals Foundation Trust, Southend University Hospital FT and Mid Essex Hospitals Services Trust are included, while Colchester Hospital University FT and Princess Alexandra Hospital Trust are not.

An NHS England spokesman said the decision to reduce the success regime area was taken because of the size of Essex and patient flows.

He added: “Essex is big and potentially unmanageable as a single programme area… It is twice the size of the success regime area in NEW Devon and three and half times the size of [the programme area in] Cumbria, in terms of population.”

Mid and south Essex health and social care organisations serve a population of 1.13 million people – 65 per cent of the county’s total population.

The success regime is being overseen by NHS England, Monitor and the NHS Trust Development Authority.