North Essex Partnership University Foundation Trust chief executive Andrew Geldard has resigned.

Mr Geldard will leave the trust - which is currently in merger talks with a neighbouring NHS provider - at the end of March, after eight years in the role, a trust statement confirmed.

The trust has not yet selected a successor and its statement did not address whether Mr Geldard had plans to move into another job.

Speaking to HSJ earlier this month, Mr Geldard expressed his concerns about the future of secondary mental health services in North Essex.

He said: “I am really concerned about secondary mental health services. We hear parity of esteem being talked about by politicians, which is very welcome, but, to be perfectly honest, I don’t see any of that translating to on the ground.”

The trust, like many across the sector, has struggled with performance in recent years, amid funding constraint.

The Essex Chronicle reported this week that Mr Geldard gave evidence at an inquest into the death of 57-year-old John Beecroft. The inquest found that “adequate precautions were not taken to minimise the risk to the deceased”, and that there had been “insufficient communication”, the paper reported.

Mr Geldard’s departure comes at a critical juncture with the trust in talks about merging with neighboring South Essex Partnership Foundation Trust.

Mr Geldard told HSJ earlier this month that the talks with SEPT were prompted by a “shrinking market”, the “cherry picking” of key contracts, and concerns that if the two trusts remained single entities, services in the county would become unsustainable. A bigger single organisation may be able to achieve economies of scale, he told HSJ.

A trust statement said: “Andrew Geldard has led NEP as its chief executive since 2008 and has made a significant contribution to the organisation over the years.

“Andrew has decided that the time is right for him to move on to other things at the end of March next year and he will be missed by many.

“The trust will shortly commence a process to appoint his successor.”