Lisa Rodrigues, chief executive of the Sussex Partnership Foundation Trust, has told HSJ she plans to retire next year.

The former chair of the NHS Confederation’s Mental Health Network announced her plan to her trust board today. She confirmed she will leave her role in August 2014 at the age of 59.

Ms Rodrigues, a nurse by training, has been chief executive of the Sussex Partnership Foundation Trust since it was formed in April 2006. She was chief executive of its predecessor organisations from 2001 and received a CBE in 2012.

She told HSJ it would be the right time for her to retire next year after seeing through a major cultural change at Sussex Partnership Trust called Operation Sunlight, and ensuring plans were in place for her successor.

“Leaving well is a very important part of being a chief executive, but isn’t always achieved. Being at Sussex Partnership has been an amazing job and I want my board to have plenty of time to look for my successor and find someone wonderful who is different from me and full of new ideas for the next period.”

She added one of the biggest challenges facing mental health was the disparity between it and the acute sector. She said: “Commissioners are still operating totally separate budgets when we need to really be commissioning these services all as one.”

Commissioners repeatedly made “unequal” savings demands on mental health providers compared with those in acute sector, she said. She added: “Commissioners are stuck between a rock and a hard place and they have to make savings. But because mental health has delivered in the past they come back to ask for more.

“There is still a lot of stigma around using mental health services and around providing those services as well.”

She said she currently had no idea what she would do after stepping down next year.