Published: 05/02/2004, Volume II4, No. 5891 Page 9

A trust chief executive has resigned just eight months after she joined the NHS from the private sector.

Suzanne Goodband joined Royal Berkshire and Battle Hospitals trust in May 2003, having previously been head of the UK health industry group at Deloitte and Touche. She announced her resignation - with immediate effect - on January 23. The one-star trust is currently implementing a recovery plan to tackle a£10m underlying deficit. December figures show a deficit of£2.3m and the trust is forecasting a year-end£1.4m deficit.

Less than a month after she was appointed Ms Goodband suffered a setback when the trust fell from two stars to one following a Commission for Health Improvement report.

She made a number of changes to her management team. Gillian Johnson, who runs her own consultancy, Business in Change, joined in November as interim corporate director. Simon Howell joined in December from a law firm, becoming interim finance director. Trust insiders who have contacted HSJ say the introduction of managers from the private sector alienated existing staff.

But one member of staff who did not want to be named said staff were baffled by Ms Goodband's departure: 'The trust has got some problems but It is hard to see how she can be blamed for losing a star and a£10m deficit in the short time she has been here.'

In a statement Ms Goodband said: 'I am proud to have served the people of Berkshire over the past year. I believe that I have made a positive impact on the trust's thinking and I am particularly pleased at the improvement in waiting times.' She was not available for further comment.

The trust would not comment on the reasons for the departure or Ms Goodband's career plans. HSJ understands that Ms Goodband does not have a new job.

Unison regional officer Tony Jones said: 'We know that chief executives in the health service have very short shelf lives, but to up sticks without an inkling after a matter of months does raise all kinds of questions.'

Deputy chief executive Professor Ann Sheen has taken over as acting chief executive and the trust is seeking a permanent replacement.

Trust chair Colin MacLean said: 'In her short period with us Suzanne and her progressive approach have made a valuable contribution. Her strategic thinking and planning for the modernisation of services in West Berkshire has significantly changed the way in which the trust operates. In addition, considerable improvements in waiting times and financial performance have been achieved during her stewardship.'