West Suffolk Hospital trust chair resigns in wake of whistleblowing report

Sheila Childerhouse has resigned as trust chair at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust in the wake of the whistleblowing review

Sheila Childerhouse has resigned as trust chair at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust in the wake of a review into how whistleblowing was handled - Credit: Archant

The chair of the West Suffolk Hospital trust has resigned following a damning report into how the organisation handled whistleblowing over patient safety.

Sheila Childerhouse, who has held the position of chair of the West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust since 2017, said she takes "personal accountability" for the failings identified in the independent review, which was published earlier this month.

The long-awaited report by Christine Outram MBE heavily criticised hospital bosses for effectively ignoring clinicians' concerns over a colleague and for pursuing staff for fingerprints and handwriting samples to identify the author of an anonymous letter.

It said the investigation adopted "an intimidating process that distressed and damaged individual staff members".

Former West Suffolk Hospital CEO Dr Stephen Dunn with trust chair Shelia Childerhouse, who has now resigned

Former West Suffolk Hospital CEO Dr Stephen Dunn with trust chair Shelia Childerhouse, who has now resigned - Credit: Archant

Former West Suffolk Hospital chief executive Dr Stephen Dunn stepped down from his role ahead of the report, as well as former medical director Nick Jenkins. Former chief operating officer Helen Beck and former director of workforce and communications Jan Bloomfield have also left their roles.

Following the review, interim chief executive Craig Black said the trust takes "full responsibility for failings and short comings around the handling of events leading up to and surrounding the whistleblowing, and are truly sorry to the staff and families affected".

Interim chief executive Craig Black

Interim chief executive Craig Black - Credit: WSFT

Announcing her resignation, Ms Childerhouse said: "I recognise and take personal accountability for the failings identified in the independent review into whistleblowing, and believe it is in the best interests of the organisation, our staff, patients and community that I do.

"It is important that the trust is not distracted as we move forward, rebuild and continue our work to create an open, fair and inclusive organisation.

"The last two years have been exhausting for all involved and I remain sincerely sorry to the staff and families affected."

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Ms Childerhouse will step down from her role as chair of the organisation in January 2022.

Jan Bloomfield, former executive director of workforce and communications at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust

Jan Bloomfield, former executive director of workforce and communications at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust - Credit: Archant

Liz Steele, lead governor for the Council of Governors, thanked her for her service to the trust.

"We will look to appoint an interim chair while we get underway with a full recruitment process for the position. As we look to the future, we are motivated to help make a difference, represent the voice of staff and patients and make improvements that will support the organisation and those it cares for as we move forward,” she said.

Mr Black added: “Over the years Sheila has played a lead role in the successful integration of community services within the trust, and has ensured, through her involvement in the Suffolk and North East Essex integrated care system’s chairs group, that the West Suffolk has had a voice when looking to the future of local health and care services. This is especially true in all the work she has done in the background in relation to the proposed new hospital."