West Suffolk Hospital chief to step down ahead of 'witch-hunt' report

Suffolk coronavirus cases: Dr Stephen Dunn, chief executive of West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, sa

Dr Stephen Dunn is to leave West Suffolk Hospital - Credit: Archant

The head of West Suffolk Hospital, Stephen Dunn, is to step down, it has been announced. 

Dr Dunn joined the trust in 2014 from the NHS Trust Development Authority.

In an email sent to staff announcing his departure, Dr Dunn said that the last 18 months had presented "operational, structural and cultural challenges" within the trust, both from the pandemic and also what he described as a "challenging" CQC report. 

The report, released in 2019,  rated the hospital as 'requiring improvement', and criticised the care of newborns, outpatient services and staff relations at the trust.

At the time, Dr Dunn apologised for not meeting public, staff and patient expectations and said that "immediate action" had been taken at the trust. 

In the staff email, Dr Dunn said that he had been considering his position for some time but had stayed on to lead the trust through the pandemic. 

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He said he would now be moving on to use his experience from the trust to contribute to national policy making across the health and care sector.

"West Suffolk is a brilliant place to work and has wonderful, committed staff. I have loved working here, but it is now the right time – after seven years and as we look towards a new hospital – to hand over the reins to ensure we maintain momentum on the journey of improvement," he said.

His departure comes ahead of the publishing of a report into a so called "witch-hunt" at the trust, which saw staff asked for finger prints and handwriting samples after a staff member blew the whistle on concerns about the death of patient Susan Warby in 2018. 

An inquest held in September 2020 found that mistakes during surgery had contributed to the death of Mrs Warby.

Dr Dunn is not the first member of senior staff at the hospital to leave in recent months after medical director Nick Jenkins and chief operating officer Helen Beck announced they would be moving away from the trust earlier this year, citing personal reasons and retirement, respectively. 

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Following Dr Dunn's departure, the trust's deputy chief executive, Craig Black, will take over the reins until a new head can be recruited. 

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