New mental health boss appointment branded ‘disastrous’ by campaigners

Antek Lejk, the new chief executive at NSFT. Photo: North Norfolk CCG

Antek Lejk, the new chief executive at NSFT. Photo: North Norfolk CCG - Credit: Archant

The appointment of a new mental health boss has been branded 'disastrous' by campaigners due to the new chief's background in NHS funding.

Antek Lejk is currently the chief officer at south and north Norfolk clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and also heads up the biggest shake-up of healthcare in Norfolk and Waveney in a generation, known as the sustainability and transformation plan (STP).

Under the STP health chiefs have to save £300m from Norfolk and Waveney's NHS by 2021.

But it was announced today (Thursday) he will give those positions up to become the boss at Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT), which was plunged back into special measures last year.

The NSFT council of governors approved his appointment today - but not without dissent. The public meeting began some 20 minutes late, and one governor said this was due to 'disagreement' in private over whether to approve Mr Lejk.

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The trust's chair, Gary Page, said: 'It's been a difficult process but I appreciate everyone's professionalism and we will work to make this a success.'

In the vote, nine governors approved the appointment, four voted against and two abstained.

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But a spokesman for the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk said after the meeting: 'This is a disastrous appointment for service users and carers, the head of the commissioners who have starved NSFT of funding has now taken over the organisation. It's a travesty and the council of governors whose job it is to represent service users, carers, staff, and the public ignored the views of the appointment panels and approved this appointment instead of listening to feedback.'

Mr Lejk said: 'I am excited and proud to be asked to help lead NSFT. I am especially looking forward to meeting service users, carers and staff.

'I have always had a particular interest and passion for mental health. I have led two mental health organisations in the past and I am keen to help NSFT move on from its current difficulties and emerge a stronger, even better organisation serving the people of Norfolk and Suffolk.'

In a statement Mr Page added: 'Our board is delighted to have someone of Antek's calibre and evident experience join us. He is a leader who commands great respect from the people who work with him, and we believe he will be exactly the kind of inspirational leader we need to continue to make our trust a better place to receive services and to work within.'

It has not been revealed how much Mr Lejk will be paid, but previous permanent chief executive Michael Scott earned between £170,000 and £175,000.

Mr Scott announced his retirement in September shortly before the publication of the damning inspection report which found NSFT to be unsafe. In the interim the trust's former finance director, Julie Cave, has been at the helm.

She had put herself forward for the permanent position, but it was revealed last week had withdrawn.

Governors praised Mrs Cave for her work and said they hoped she would stay on.

Who is Antek Lejk?

Mr Lejk has more than 10 years' experience as a chief executive and as a chief officer - including leading two mental health organisations - with more than 20 years of experience working at director and board level within NHS commissioning and provider organisations.

For the past two decades he has worked mostly within the NHS, spending nine years as chief executive of two NHS trusts and a primary care trust, as well as a chief Executive of a charitable company.

But his name hit the headlines in 2010 when he was pulled in front of the government's health select committee to answer questions over Nigerian-born German doctor Daniel Ubani.

Dr Ubani, who administered a fatal overdose on his first and only shift in the UK, had been refused work by Leeds Primary Care Trust (PCT).

But at the time Mr Lejk admitted his PCT in Cornwall did not even attempt to assess Dr Ubani's language skills, which meant he was allowed to work in the UK.

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