- Siobhan McArdle says “very challenging financial and regulatory environment” part of reason for leaving
- Email to staff adds “personal cost of being a CEO in the NHS is just too high”
- Has been CEO since September 2015
South Tees Hospitals Foundation Trust’s chief executive has announced her resignation in a blistering email to trust staff, saying the personal cost of being an NHS CEO is too high and “life is just too short”.
In an email to staff today, Siobhan McArdle said she considered the demands for further efficiency savings were “too great a challenge” and cited what she described as a “very challenging financial and regulatory environment” as factors in her decision to leave. She added the South Tees local health economy was both “underfunded and unsustainable”.
Ms McArdle, who became chief executive in September 2015 after joining the trust earlier that year as director of transformation, said she had survived longer as a CEO than she had expected given her “reputation for straight speaking”.
She said: “Throughout my time in the NHS I am proud to have remained true to my own values, vision and high levels of integrity – values, vision and integrity that I know many of you also share. However, after much debate with my family and friends over the last 12 months, I have now decided that the personal cost of being a CEO in the NHS is just too high and life is just too short.”
In what appeared to be a shot at the Care Quality Commission following its inspection of the trust earlier this year, Ms McArdle told staff: “Although there is always room for improvement in an organisation of its size, South Tees is not an organisation that requires improvement.”
She said the trust was unsustainable without a long-term funding plan to address its private finance initiative debts and the long-term debt built up over many years. She added: “This is something the senior leadership team and myself have been fighting continuously for over the last four years.”
Ms McArdle, who previously worked as a management consultant, praised staff for their efforts and hard work. She urged them to get behind the trust’s senior management team.
She said: “I will always remain a great supporter of this organisation and fully intend to continue to fight for a fairer deal for the people of Teeside, Hambleton, Richmondshire, Whitby and the surrounding areas – just from a very different place.”
During its inspection of the trust this year, the CQC rated the trust as “requires improvement” overall and in the well-led domain.
The regulator said staff felt senior managers “were not visible, contactable or approachable” and that morale was variable.
In its latest board performance report, the trust was £4.4m behind plan, and failing to hit accident and emergency, referral to treatment, and cancer waiting times.
Chair of the trust, Alan Downey said: “The board of directors, council of governors and I are sorry that Siobhan has decided to resign as chief executive after serving the trust so well. However, we completely understand that, after more than four years of giving her all to the organisation, she feels now is the right time to move on to new challenges and opportunities.
“We want to thank Siobhan for the tremendous contribution she has made to the trust and wish her every success as she embarks on the next stage in her career.
“We are beginning the process of recruiting a new chief executive and in the meantime will continue to focus on ensuring that the trust is well led and that we support our staff, to enable them to provide seamless continuity of care to our patients.”
Siobhan McArdle’s resignation letter to staff
Following the latest round of financial forecasting and re-forecasting and what I consider to be too great a challenge with regard to the delivery of further productivity and efficiency savings at South Tees Foundation Trust, I am writing to let you know that I have decided to step down as CEO effective from 30 September 2019.
As many of you know, I joined the trust as director of transformation in April 2015 and shortly after that became a CEO in the following September, something which was certainly not in my career plan at the time. I think it is fair to say, given my reputation for straight speaking, I have lasted far longer than anyone, including me, thought I would – in fact I have exceeded the average term of office of three years for newly appointed CEOs in the NHS by a year and so I am now obviously considering a career in football management as my next move.
I have always done my utmost to defend and promote the interests of our organisation, and I have done so within a very challenging financial and regulatory environment, in a local health economy that I believe is underfunded and unsustainable. Throughout my time in the NHS I am proud to have remained true to my own values, vision and high levels of integrity – values, vision and integrity that I know many of you also share. However, after much debate with my family and friends over the last 12 months, I have now decided that the personal cost of being a CEO in the NHS is just too high and life is just too short.
South Tees Foundation Trust is a fantastic organisation made up of passionate people who have a great reputation for delivering excellence in patient outcomes and experiences. Although there is always room for improvement in an organisation of its size, South Tees is not an organisation that requires improvement. South Tees is also financially unsustainable without a much needed long-term financial recovery plan. A plan which not only addresses the shortcomings of our PFI contract but also deals with the burden of long-term debt that has built up over many years, and resolves the urgent need for capital investment. This is something the senior leadership team and myself have been fighting continuously for over the last four years.
We can all take both pride and satisfaction in having delivered a recovery plan totalling more than £140m over the last five years which has demonstrated that as an organisation we were and are prepared to deliver innovative change and improved efficiency whilst at the same time maintaining patient safety – we now however need to see real transformational change at a system wide level in order to make any further progress.
I hope you all know that I have absolutely given it my all over the last four years and have had a great time at South Tees, reconnecting with lots of old friends whilst also making many, many new ones. I will always remain a great supporter of this organisation and fully intend to continue to fight for a fairer deal for the people of Teeside, Hambleton, Richmondshire, Whitby and the surrounding areas – just from a very different place.
My final request would be that everyone now gets behind the board and senior leadership team. The board and senior leadership team may not always get it right, but I can assure you they work tirelessly on behalf of the organisation, its patients and its people, often at great personal cost to themselves and their families, as of course do many of you.
So my final ask is that everyone now pulls together and sticks together to ensure we get the fair deal South Tees Foundation Trust and our population deserves.
Information provided to HSJ