Organisational change will be a “last resort” for those in the South Central region placed “under review” by the Department of Health, the strategic health authority’s new chief executive has pledged.

Andrea Young, who will start as NHS South Central chief executive on 1 October, said it was a priority for the SHA to support the organisations under review. Plans are in place to tackle performance, she said.

Irrespective of the organisation, if there is consistent failure, action has to be taken to remedy this

Plymouth Hospitals Trust, Portsmouth Hospitals Trust and South Central Ambulance Service Trust were among the 22 hospital and four ambulance trusts named as having their “performance under review” nationwide.

The list will be repeated each quarter, and if trusts fail to improve, the DH and SHAs could take measures such as replacing board members, or arranging mergers.

In an interview with HSJ, Ms Young said: “Irrespective of the organisation, if there is consistent failure, action has to be taken to remedy this. Patient safety must come first, but we will work with these organisations to effect change and organisational change is a last resort.”

South Central has been identified as likely to be hit first by the full effects of the recession, because of its historical funding position.

Ms Young said NHS managers across the region have dealt with a lower level of funding for a long time, and the SHA will support trusts to work together to improve quality of care and patient experience.

“As a percentage of income we have a reasonable size surplus, but a tight financial environment is nothing new [for NHS South Central] to be dealing with. The bottom line is we all have to deliver high quality patient care and the SHA is the assurer of this,” she said.

Primary care and acute trusts will have to “work collaboratively”, she said.

Ms Young acknowledged work already done by the SHA in identifying regional objectives to improve care.

She said the financial pressures facing the NHS “require system wide plans to sustain and accelerate” these objectives.

“All trusts must work together locally and look at what needs to be done to deliver effective patient care over the next three to five years. We need to improve quality to decrease costs,” she said.

Ms Young, chief executive of NHS Oxfordshire since October 2006, will replace Jim Easton, who has left the SHA to become national director for improvement and efficiency at the DH.