After remorseless media focus, Hugh Ross take a step backstage

Published: 11/07/2001, Volume II2, No.5813 Page 17

'Hugh Ross exudes brisk efficiency and steely intelligence. He makes you want to think sharper, sit up straighter. He looks as if he would be very good in a crisis.

Which he is.' This assessment of Mr Ross, chief executive of United Bristol Healthcare trust for the past seven years, was published in HSJ a year ago, as the mammoth Bristol inquiry finally published its conclusions.

Then, Mr Ross described running UBHT as 'the most difficult job I've ever done'. He might have been excused for thinking that the publication of Professor (now Sir) Ian Kennedy's report would provide some respite for the trust. Instead, last September the trust fell back into the media glare as a no-star trust. And last week, an internal investigation confirmed allegations that waiting lists had been suspended at the trust between 1996-98. So it is not surprising Mr Ross has accepted a role running a Bristolwide reconfiguration project. Controversial as reconfiguration may be, for a man as used to a TV studio as an operating surgery, the job may feel like a step backstage. And the timing of his move is interesting, a week before the next round of star-ratings, and as the trust awaits the results of its Commission for Health Improvement review, due in August.

But it is cheering that the highly rated Mr Ross will not be lost to the NHS. One concern though: what happened to due recruitment process? Surely he would have been better served if his new role had been won - and seen to be won - by open and fair selection? l