Managers are urging the NHS Confederation to ensure it provides the health service with a strong, independent voice following the resignation of chief executive Steve Barnett.

Mr Barnett handed in his notice last week. This followed a series of management and financial problems at the confederation and its subsidiary NHS Employers.

The organisation is being scrutinised by the Charity Commission, Department of Health, governance experts and auditors in light of the failure of NHS Employers’ proposed HR membership scheme.

In a statement, Mr Barnett said: “I have concluded that this decision is the right one, both for the organisation and for me personally and professionally.

“Colleagues will be aware of the issues we have recently faced surrounding the NHS Employers member model project. While I cannot and should not accept responsibility for the actions or omissions of others, I have never shied away from or attempted to dispute the fact that accountability for oversight should properly rest with me as CEO.”

Mr Barnett stands down on 17 June, a week before the confederation’s annual conference. Policy director Nigel Edwards will act as chief executive.

Mr Barnett’s decision has provoked a mixed reaction from the health service. An anonymous acute trust chief executive said it was the “right thing” following an “unfortunate but not irredeemable” episode. The chief added that the organisation “needs to ensure it has the ability to maintain a strong and independent voice”.

Cumbria Partnership Foundation Trust chief executive Stephen Dalton agreed. “We need a replacement who’s particularly strong on experience and knows their way around the system. It’s not a job for someone to cut their teeth on.”

Chair Keith Pearson said: “I would like to make it very clear that Steve’s resignation should not be perceived as any admission of personal responsibility for the issues the organisation has faced of late.

“Rather, it is hugely to Steve’s credit that he has seen fit to clear the way voluntarily for a new chief executive, who will be able to take up the mantle as part of a fresh senior team led by myself as newly appointed chair.

“Such a decision is in keeping with the professional integrity with which Steve has led the organisation, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank Steve for the hard work, dedication and leadership he has displayed during his tenure here and to wish him all the best in the future.”

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