Chairman of struggling mental health trust to step down

Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust chairman Gary Page. Photo: NSFT

Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust chairman Gary Page. Photo: NSFT - Credit: NSFT

The chairman of the region's troubled mental health trust has announced he is stepping down.

Gary Page has been chairman at Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) for six years, and was a non-executive director for a year before that.

But his term of office is drawing to a close, and he will leave NSFT next year.

Mr Page has been chairman throughout many changes at the trust, including the radical redesign of services which led to cuts in bed numbers and staff.

The trust has also been rated as inadequate by inspectors twice in that time.

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But Mr Page said at a board of directors meeting held in Ipswich today that although it had been a 'very difficult few years' for the organisation, he had 'always been enormously proud of the hard work and dedication of our amazing staff who do an incredible job in often very difficult circumstances'.

He said: 'Mental health services are now being given the priority that they deserve and I hope this will further support the trust in providing the services which local people are entitled to expect.

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'During my tenure as chair I have met some truly inspirational people among our staff, service users and carers and it has been a privilege to have been chair during a time when the NHS and our trust has faced some real challenges.

'I will always be committed to the NHS and will always be a champion of this trust but having come to the end of my term it is now time to move on. I will fully support the new incumbent and, in the meantime, I look forward to the coming months supporting NSFT's continued work to improve our services and the trust as a place to work.'

It comes as Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspectors returned to the trust in recent weeks, with a report due out in the coming months.

Yesterday, members of the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk, met with inspectors to give their views.

One member, who did not wish to be named, said: 'I'm here because I just don't see things getting better and I'm desperate for it to improve.'

NSFT's council of governors will now start the process of finding a new chairman.

Panels of stakeholders including staff, service users, carers and partner organisations, will meet candidates shortlisted for the role and provide feedback to the interview panel, led by the senior independent director, Tim Newcomb.

Following a recommendation from the panel, it is expected that the governors will approve a new chairman in December, who will then take over from Mr Page after a short handover period. Lead governor Catherine Wells said: 'Over the past six years as chair, Gary has played a key role within the trust, co-leading its efforts to improve services for service users and their families.

'His significant contribution during a very difficult period has provided continuity and stability. This is reflected in the high esteem with which he is held, and many people will be sad to see him leave the role.

'His professional support enabled me to take on the role as lead governor, and so I would like to add my own personal thanks.

'We are focusing our efforts on recruiting and appointing a new chair of the same high calibre as Gary to continue to lead the governors and board of the trust.'

Two other non-executive directors are now being recruited to replace vacancies on the board and are expected to join the trust in the autumn.

In November, chief nurse Diane Hull will join NSFT.

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