• Lesley Dwyer is stepping down after nearly four years at Medway Foundation Trust
  • She was one of HSJ’s top 50 chief executives this year
  • Deputy chief executive James Devine will take over her role until a permanent appointment is made

The chief executive who brought one of the most troubled trusts in England out of special measures is set to return to Australia.

Lesley Dwyer will step down in November after nearly four years at Medway FT. Ms Dwyer, who has a young granddaughter in Australia, will take up a post as chief executive of the Central Adelaide Local Health Network, which is a large integrated health organisation.

She was one of HSJ’s top 50 chief executives this year, after taking over at Medway in 2015 when the trust had been in special measures for two years following an investigation into its high mortality rates.

She said: “This has been an incredibly difficult decision for me, and not one I have taken lightly, but I need to be closer to my family, so the time has come to hand over the reins.

“I am extremely proud of what we have achieved here at Medway, making it a safer, better place for our patients and staff, and restoring confidence and ambition in this organisation. Although many challenges remain, we have demonstrated that we have the best of people to deliver the best of care.”

At the time she joined, many of the trust’s executives were temporary appointments and one of her achievements has been to reduce the reliance on temporary managers. The board members are now all permanent.

Deputy chief executive James Devine will take over her role until a permanent appointment is made.

Ms Dwyer also strengthened the trust’s focus on quality and led it out of special measures in March 2017, when it was rated “requires improvement”.

However, the trust still has enormous financial problems, finishing 2017-18 with a pre-sustainability and transformation funding deficit of £66.4m, £19.6m adverse to plan. It could lose stroke services in a major reconfiguration across Kent and Medway, and continues to have high vacancy rates for nurses.