The chair of the hospital trust at the centre of an infection control scandal has attacked centralised control of the NHS as he stepped down.
James Lee - who had earlier this year been asked to stay on as chair to see Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells trust through the coming year - told HSJ he had been 'hung out to dry'.
In a letter to health secretary Alan Johnson, he said the NHS was 'run on the basis of command-and-control'. 'This way of managing things is fundamentally incompatible with the concept of independent trusts with non-executive directors.'
While money was being pumped into the NHS, few extra funds were reaching the coalface, he added.
Mr Lee disclosed he had offered to resign earlier in the crisis but had been told by the strategic health authority to stay to offer stability. NHS South East Coast chief executive Candy Morris had told him 'we have every faith in your ability to deal with the current pressing issues', he said.
But pressure on him had increased with MPs calling for his resignation. Finally he wrote to Mr Johnson on Sunday, saying he could only continue 'if I have your confidence and support'.
On Monday, after the Conservatives forced a question about the scandal in the Commons, Mr Johnson told MPs that he had accepted Mr Lee's resignation. He said he was ordering a review into how the trust agreed to make a severance payment to former chief executive Rose Gibb, who resigned before the release of last week's damning Healthcare Commission report on two outbreaks of Clostridium Difficile that killed at least 90 people (for more background, click here).
The report, which highlighted numerous poor practices at the trust, has been passed to the police and Health and Safety Executive.
The trust has also received an unprecedented offer of help for its management team from Kent county council, which could involve secondment of senior council officers, and a£5m loan. More controversially Conservative council leader Paul Carter suggested three councillors should sit on the trust board.
The council also plans to set up a Healthwatch scheme to handle complaints from patients and the public about the NHS. 'This should be a wake-up call not just to Kent but to the whole of the country,' Mr Carter said. 'I do believe that the NHS, to a degree, has lost its dignity and lost its humanity.'
Interim chief executive Glenn Douglas said the NHS could learn from local government, especially on customer focus.
Ms Gibb and her partner, Mark Rees, who resigned as chief executive of Barking, Havering and Redbridge trust two weeks ago, have refused to speak to the press.
Four West Kent MPs were due to meet Mr Johnson yesterday to discuss the trust. Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark (Conservative) said he feared the planned new hospital at Pembury could be delayed by the current turmoil.
He also called for the trust to have a full-time leader as soon as possible. Acting chief executive Mr Douglas is also running Ashford and St Peter's trust in Surrey.