A leading exponent of the creation of NHS trusts has lost his chief executive's job in a trust merger. Dr Tudor Thomas, chief executive of Epsom Health Care trust, has taken early retirement after being turned down for the top job in the newly merged Epsom and St Helier trust.

Dr Thomas was a firm supporter of the concept of independent hospital trusts following the Conservative reforms of the early 1990s.

Dr Nigel Sewell, former chief executive of St Helier trust, has been appointed chief executive of the new organisation.

The trust is battling against an estimated overspend that has leapt from£2.7m in April to£4.6m. London regional office is to bail the trust out with£2m of special funding and other financial measures. The merger was intended to save£1.5m a year in management costs. Planned investments of up to£3.5m in accident and emergency facilities, radiology and paediatrics are unaffected.

Dr Sewell said the trust was committed to keeping within its resources and protecting patient services 'as far as possible'.