PERFORMANCE: Monitor has appointed an improvement director to help turn around Heart of England Foundation Trust.

Diane Whittingham will be employed by the regulator and will work at the troubled West Midlands trust on a part time basis alongside Andrew Foster, who takes up the role of interim chief executive later this month.

Ms Whittingham was chief executive of Calderdale and Huddersfield Foundation Trust for 15 years until 2012, and has over 30 years of NHS experience.

Her appointment is part of new enforcement undertakings that Monitor has agreed with the trust, which includes an obligation to develop and implement a wide ranging improvement plan.

Birmingham Heartlands Hospital

Heart of England FT was subject to enforcement action since 2013 because of poor waiting times performance

An external review commissioned by the trust highlighted deficiencies in how the board scrutinised the running of its services.

Monitor said Ms Whittingham would provide support to Heart of England while also holding its board to account against delivery of the improvement plan, which will cover governance, culture, safety and staffing, information technology, performance and leadership.

Heart of England has been subject to enforcement action since December 2013 because of poor waiting times performance.

In November its chief executive, Mark Newbold, stood down weeks after Monitor had taken further regulatory action at the trust.

The trust announced last month that Mr Foster, the chief executive of Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Foundation Trust, would be seconded to it for a maximum of six months, during which time Heart of England would also receive support from the North West trust.

The appointment of an external improvement director, the creation of an improvement plan and the “buddying” style relationship with Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh seem to share similarities with the approach to improvement deployed during special measures.

However, a Monitor spokesman said the approach was not inspired by the special measures regime.

He told HSJ that the appointment of an improvement director to provide extra support to Heart of England’s leadership was felt to be the most effective way to deal with the trust’s challenges.

The spokesman also emphasised that the decision to link up with Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh had been taken by the trust, not Monitor.

Les Lawrence, Heart of England’s chair, said he was pleased the trust was receiving “such positive support from Monitor in securing someone with Diane’s excellent track record”.

“I am confident that in working closely with both Andrew Foster and Diane over the next six months we will be able to put in place some real improvements that will result in tangible benefits for both patients and staff,” he said.