The largest mental and community health services trust in the country has appointed a new chair, after being without a permanent chair for over a year.

Lynne Hunt, a former nurse, has been appointed as chair of Southern Health Foundation Trust and will take over from interim chair Alan Yates on 3 July.

Mr Yates has been in the role since Tim Smart left last September for personal reasons. Mr Smart, a former chief executive of King’s College Hospital FT, was brought in by NHS Improvement as interim chair of Southern Health in May 2016. The previous substantive chair, Mike Petter, resigned last April on the eve of a critical inspection report by the Care Quality Commission being published.

In December 2015, a report by the audit firm Mazars highlighted failures at the trust to investigate and learn from patient deaths, and criticised leadership at the provider.

The trust has had an interim chief executive, Julie Dawes, the director of nursing and quality, since Katrina Percy resigned last August.

Southern Health is also looking to appoint four new non-executive directors, after four resigned at the same time in March.

The appointment of Ms Hunt comes as the trust faces prosecution by the Health and Safety Executive following the death of Connor Sparrowhawk, a patient who drowned in a bath while in its care in 2013.

Ms Hunt is a qualified nurse and was previously a non-executive director and vice chair of Dorset Healthcare FT. She was also deputy chief executive at East London FT.

Ms Hunt said: “Southern Health has been on a journey in recent years, and I see my appointment as being an important next step as the trust continues on this journey of improvement. With this new leadership and a board of newly appointed non-executive directors, we can influence and develop a culture of change and improvement that will benefit staff and patients, aspiring for excellence at every opportunity. I look forward to this new role, and the future, with optimism.”

Mr Yates said: “It is good news for Southern Health FT that the council of governors of the trust has chosen Lynne to be the next chair of the trust.

“She has a tremendous background of service improvement as a clinical manager, as an executive director and more recently as a senior non-executive director. Her skill, experience and humanity, I am sure, will mean that the board will be well led and in turn the trust and its services will be well led.”