• Joint chief decision for Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust and North East London Foundation Trust comes after joint chair arrangement
  • Trusts commissioned Sir David Dalton to look at options for group model

A mental health trust and one of England’s worst performing acute trusts have announced they will come together under a “group model”.

Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust and North East London Foundation Trust, which provides mental health and community services across the same area, today announced they would be recruiting a joint chief executive.

The organisations already have a joint chair in Joe Fielder, who has led the non-executive directors at both trusts since November 2017.

The trusts are the latest in London to announce closer working since former Royal Free London FT chief executive Sir David Sloman became regional director for the capital - the push for shared leadership has seen two of the capital’s biggest NHS organisations appoint a shared chair and chief clinical information officer, while two large mental health trusts have shared human resources and estates directors.

Chris Bown has been interim chief executive at Barking since the departure of Matthew Hopkins in 2018. Oliver Shanley has been interim chief of NELFT since long-standing trust boss John Brouder left in May this year.

BHRT was the second worst performing in London in 2018-19 on key access measures, while also having well-documented financial problems.

In a joint statement with Mr Fielder, the two interim chief executives said: “Breaking down barriers between health organisations is a priority for the NHS and is a crucial element of the NHS long-term plan.

“Our joint decision to create a group model will benefit patients and staff as we develop more integrated services across mental health, community and acute provision that will improve the quality of the care we provide.

“Each organisation will be able to learn from the best practice being pursued by the other. Our staff will be able to work more easily across organisational boundaries and the removal of barriers will be better for our patients. One example of where this is already happening is the work we are doing with our commissioners to establish one rehabilitation ward for stroke patients and one community-based rehabilitation team.”

The statement stressed the two organisations would not fully merge, however, and would retain their own executive and non-executive directors.

Sir David Dalton, who led the creation of the Northern Care Alliance Group in Greater Manchester, was commissioned as a consultant on the design of the new structure.

The statement said Sir David had already recommended the creation of single leadership teams in each borough, under a joint chief executive and joint committee of directors and non-executive directors, responsible for acute, community, mental health, primary care, “social services” and “neighbourhood provision”.

It continued: “This proposal is not something that BHRUT and NELFT can, or would want to, introduce on our own. It is something that senior leaders across BHR would have to agree to collectively and the future of our health and social care provision may end up being different to what Sir David has recommended.

“One of the first tasks of our new joint chief executive will be to explore with all our partners, including our GPs, councillors and commissioners, whether this is a direction of travel all those responsible for services in our three boroughs would like to pursue.”

NELFT also runs significant volumes of other services across Essex and Kent.

The joint statement added: “It is the intention of the NELFT board to continue to deliver the services we provide outside of the BHR health economy. The NELFT board is clear that we will ensure we can deliver across all areas and for all the patients we serve as part of the key conversations in all our health economies about how the long-term plan will be delivered.”

Stephen Eames is currently chief executive of both the acute and mental health trusts in north Cumbria, but it remains very rare.


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