“Think like a patient, act like a taxpayer” Simon Stevens instructed healthcare leaders as he took up the reins at NHS England. In times of austerity, the second clause is just as important as the first in establishing and maintaining credibility.
On Tuesday, Katrina Percy stood down as chief executive of Southern Health Foundation Trust and took up a new role with the trust, “providing strategic advice to local GP leaders”. Ms Percy still has strong support among many of the region’s healthcare leaders, but had been unable to deal with the major scandal which has enveloped her trust following the death of Connor Sparrowhawk three years ago.
What has raised many eyebrows is that she will continue to receive a salary of circa £190,000.
The NHS cannot afford to lose experienced leaders – but it also needs them to demonstrate more nous and humility than citing “media attention” as the reason for resignation and hanging on to a chief executive’s salary. The latter, of course, virtually guarantees the former will continue.
The region’s ambitious and long-standing integration plans owe much to her leadership, but as a controversial figure she needs to make sure that nothing she does would endanger that work. Over the summer a bandwagon started rolling which characterised the various initiatives now grouped under the sustainability and transformation plans as “secret” plans to cut services. This trolling of NHS service reform will only grow as financial pressures increase and critics will seize on anything that can be used to undermine it.
More significantly, NHS chief executives deserve to be well paid for three reasons: they bear incredible responsibility on their shoulders; they often have little job security; and they work bloody hard. It cannot be right that someone gets the same reward for a position which comes with significantly less responsibility and accountability to the public, to Parliament, and to regulators.
Ms Percy should ponder on that and take the appropriate steps.