Published: 06/12/2001, Volume III, No. 5784 Page 4 5

Barbara Harris, director of the NHS Leadership Centre, has been on extended leave since early November when the Commission for Health Improvement criticised the management style at the trust where she was previously chief executive.

Royal United Hospital Bath trust is also conducting reviews of its finances and waiting-list data.

The review of the trust's finances is being jointly carried out by the district auditor and Barts and the London trust finance director Barry Elliott. A South West region spokesperson said this was to 'follow through on issues arising' from a district audit, the report of which is yet to be published.

CHI had noted financial pressures at the trust in its report, with an 'adverse variance' of£790,000 and a deficit of£290,000 reported for the first quarter to a trust board meeting in July.

The one-star trust's waiting-list data is being reviewed by East Sussex, Brighton and Hove health authority chief executive Alan Bedford. A spokesperson for the region said: 'There was some concern about the accuracy of data, which arose as a result of the work done on achieving targets this year. '

South West region director of finance and performance management Paul Nicholls is married to Ms Harris. The spokesperson said that during Ms Harris' time at the trust, its 'day to day' performance management was carried out by a team reporting straight to the regional director, not to Mr Nicholls.

The CHI report drew attention to the trust's practice of making significant changes to managers' roles and responsibilities, 'usually without advertisements or interviews', changes which 'do not demonstrate good employment practice'.

It was particularly critical of the management culture at Bath.

Reviewers were presented with a picture of 'an inner circle' of managers with 'a limited focus on the needs of the wider staff group' at the trust, where Ms Harris was chief executive until this summer.

RUH's new chief executive, Richard Gleave, who took up post four weeks ago, has confirmed that a number of staff formerly employed at the trust have joined the Leadership Centre in recent months.

Tracy Hicks, co-ordinator of Bath learning centre, based at the trust, said there were 'informal links' with the Leadership Centre.

'There are obvious blurring of lines between what we do and the national centre, ' she said.

A spokesperson for the NHS Modernisation Agency, of which the Leadership Centre is part, could not confirm how many staff had connections with the trust or the learning centre in Bath.

He confirmed that the centre had 'roughly 40 people, including those on secondments and shortterm contracts', but would not say how many were permanent.

The Leadership Centre has recently acquired new offices in Palace Yard Mews, Bath, in a nonNHS building to be shared with Inventures, formerly the trading arm of NHS Estates. Inventures finance director Martin Dove was until May this year finance director at the Royal United Hospital Bath trust.

Mr Gleave said the trust was focusing on its response to the CHI report and was unwilling to comment on the finance and waiting-list reviews. 'We are working to produce an action plan. We have submitted an outline plan to CHI and the regional office, ' he added.