Steve Barnett, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, has resigned and will step down next month.
Mr Barnett was appointed chief executive of the organisation in February last year, after 10 months acting in the post. He will step down on 17 June, the week before the organisation’s annual conference.
The Confederation’s director of policy Nigel Edwards will act as interim chief executive while a permanent replacement is found.
Mr Barnett’s resignation comes at a time when the organisation and its subsidiary NHS Employers have been under scrutiny over Employer’s failed plans for an ambitious outsourcing service.
As revealed by HSJ, auditors were called into NHS Employers in March after the plans to turn the organisation into a membership body offering human resources services, was dropped, due to poor levels of interest from trusts and pressure from the Department of Health over a conflict of interest with the organisation’s role in negotiating employment contracts on behalf of the DH.
A leaked report of a confidential review on the scheme concluded that financial risks and apparent conflicts of interest were missed and that trustees at the Confederation were presented with “misleading” information about the project.
Last week, the Department of Health told HSJ it was seeking assurances that NHS Employers was solvent before it would sign a new contract for contract negotiation, following the concerns raised in the report. The contract currently provides virtually all of Employer’s income and more than half of the Confederation’s.
In a statement Mr Barnett said: “Prompted by recent conversations with our new chairman, Keith Pearson, and after very careful consideration, I will be leaving my post towards the end of June. I have concluded that this decision is the right one, both for the organisation and for me personally and professionally.
“Colleagues will be aware of the issues we have recently faced surrounding the NHS Employers member model project. While I cannot and should not accept responsibility for the actions or omissions of others, I have never shied away from or attempted to dispute the fact that accountability for oversight should properly rest with me as CEO.
“With a new chair in place, and following the departure of the former director of NHS Employers, the appointment of a new chief executive will allow the organisation to move forward with a fresh senior team at the helm.
“It has been a huge privilege to lead the organisation as chief executive for the last two years, and to set up and watch NHS Employers flourish in my previous incarnation as the first director of NHSE and deputy CEO of the Confederation. Over the past 7 years I have greatly enjoyed working with exceptionally talented and committed staff at all levels, and have been delighted to see the organisation thrive and grow.
NHS Confederation chair Keith Pearson said: “I have today received and reluctantly accepted Steve Barnett’s resignation as chief executive of the NHS Confederation. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Steve for his outstanding contribution and unfailing commitment to the NHS Confederation and to NHS Employers over the past seven years.
“I would like to make it very clear that Steve’s resignation should not be perceived as any admission of personal responsibility for the issues the organisation has faced of late. Rather, it is hugely to Steve’s credit that he has seen fit to clear the way voluntarily for a new chief executive, who will be able to take up the mantle as part of a fresh senior team led by myself as newly appointed chair.
“Such a decision is in keeping with the professional integrity with which Steve has led the organisation, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank Steve for the hard work, dedication and leadership he has displayed during his tenure here and to wish him all the best in the future.
“I will be making a further statement shortly confirming next steps for the Confederation and its leadership.”
Before joining the Confederation Mr Barnett was director of NHS Employers, and he previously held roles as senior director for HR and organisational development at the Home Office, and deputy director of HR for the NHS.