• Sophia Christie leaves Devon STP 
  • Departure comes earlier than expected under her contract, at “natural point”
  • Health system previously failed to attract enough suitable leadership candidates

The interim leader of a health economy hoping to secure “integrated care system” status has left her position earlier than planned, after the parties agreed they had reached a “natural point” for “early conclusion of the contract”.

Sophie Christie, who was interim head of the Devon sustainability and transformation partnership, and interim accountable officer of the county’s two clinical commissioning groups, has departed only three months after her appointment was formalised.

Ms Christie’s appointment was announced in April, but the terms and conditions were only approved by NHS England in September.

It came after the STP failed to attract enough suitable candidates for the job in December 2017.

Ms Christie was due to spend 12 months in charge of the STP and Northern, Eastern and Western Devon and South Devon and Torbay CCGs.

HSJ has asked the CCGs if the 12 month contract commenced in April or September.

Ms Christie and the STP agreed it was in both parties’ “mutual interests” for a “leadership change”, according to a statement from the CCGs.

“Sophia has been focused predominantly on leading the design and development process for our ICS,” the statement said.

“This has been progressed at pace and we have agreed that her work on this has come to natural point such that an early conclusion of the contract is in our mutual best interests.”

The health economy – most of which used to be a ”success regime” area - is hoping to become an integrated care system during the 2019-20 financial year.

Simon Tapley, deputy chief executive officer of the CCGs, will replace Ms Christie on an interim basis.

The CCGs, which are considering a merger next year, are “working closely with NHS England on options for recruiting” a new accountable officer.

The merger plan was hit by a narrow majority (14 to 12) of GPs in South Devon and Torbay voting against it in the autumn. NEW Devon CCG has the biggest cumulative deficit - amounting to more than £100m - of any CCG in England.