Financially struggling NHS trust appoints fifth chief executive in just five years

The financially troubled West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust has appointed Christen Allen as its newest chief executive – marking its fifth leader in the last five years.

Allen is currently the chief executive of James Paget University Hospitals NHS FT and led the trust to its first-ever overall CQC rating of ‘good’ after five years in the role.

She will take over the reins at the hospital trust in February 2019, just over a year after the provider was pulled from special measures for the first time since it entered the improvement scheme in 2015.

West Hertfordshire has a history of serious financial troubles: it is currently forecasting a deficit of £52m for 2018-19, and it ended the previous financial year £42.6m in the red.

But now rated as ‘requires improvement’ by the CQC rather than ‘inadequate,’ the trust’s chair, Steve Barnett, said the results show that it had come a “long, long way” since it was first put in special measures.

The CQC reported key improvements in outpatient care, diagnostic images and services for children and young people, but said more progress was still needed. Issues were still found in areas such as incident reporting, risk identification, and culture within the emergency department.

The incoming CEO Allen has held various roles at the board of Northampton General Hospital, including acting chief executive, director of strategy, and chief operating officer.

Commenting on her appointment, Barnett said: “Finding experienced hospital chief executives is far from easy which makes securing someone of Christine’s calibre an incredible achievement and fantastic news for staff and patients.

“She is going to be a great addition to our well-established leadership team. Christine’s record in leading trusts to achieve improved national ratings speaks for itself. Likewise, our staff continue to be driven by a passion to provide the very best care for every patient, every day. With their commitment and Christine’s reputation for success, our future is looking very healthy.”

Allen will replace Helen Brown, who is the trust’s deputy chief executive and acting chief executive.

She said: “I am delighted to be joining the strong leadership team at West Herts. I look forward to supporting the leadership team to manage the challenges that the high demand for its services brings and getting involved in plans to transform the estate. And, on top of this, as I was born in Watford, it will feel like ‘coming home.’”


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