The chair of a health authority accused of being 'stuck in the past' is to resign.

Richard Irwin, chair of West Sussex HA, will leave in October by which time the authority hopes to have a new chief executive in position.

Candy Morris, chief executive of Scunthorpe and Goole Hospitals trust, will become chief executive at West Sussex on 2 October.

Mr Irwin's departure follows a report from Michael Taylor, chief executive of Oxfordshire HA, who was called in to act as chief executive of West Sussex HA in April. Mr Taylor's report accused the HA of factionalism and of being stuck in the past.

The previous chief executive, Peter Catchpole, who was not personally named in the report, left after failing to clear the HA's accumulated deficit of£20m. He has moved to the Health Quality Service.

Trevor Richards, chief officer of Mid Downs and Worthing community health council, said he understood that Mr Irwin had offered his resignation before but was asked to stay on until the new chief executive was in place.

'Richard was left in a very difficult position, ' said Mr Richards. 'It is terribly hard on the chair if there is a problem with the performance of the chief executive. I think he was trying to hold the ship together.

'I understand why he has [resigned], but as far as the public face of the HA goes, he has done a good job. From that point of view we are sorry to see him go.'

Ms Morris faced a difficult job, he warned. 'Staff are pretty demoralised and public confidence has been knocked badly.'

The HA appears to have turned round its financial position since Mr Taylor joined and has reported an estimated surplus of£418,000.

Mr Taylor said he was 'delighted' at Ms Morris' appointment. 'Candy will be working closely with the local health community to further develop modern, high quality healthcare services for the people of West Sussex .'