Longest-Serving Chief Executive to Take NHS Hiatus

The longest serving chief executive in the NHS will take a period of extended leave.

Sir Leonard Fenwick, of Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals Foundation Trust, will step down for an extended period, the board has confirmed.

His duties will be covered by business and development director Louise Robson and medical director Andrew Welch.

Fenwick hasn’t worked for the NHS since joining the organisation as a trainee, aged just 18.

No reason has been given for these periods of extended leave, nor has it been made it clear whether the hugely experienced executive will ultimately return to the position.

However, a statement from NHS Improvement did suggest that there may be more to this issue than meets the eye.

The regulator indicated that the chair and non-executive directors were holding “the executive” to account on “behalf of patients and taxpayers”.

“These matters are being dealt with through the proper channels – with the chair of the trust board and non-executive directors holding the executive to account on behalf of patients and taxpayers. Therefore it would be inappropriate for us to comment further at this time. We will be working to support Louise Robson and Andrew Welch, in their new duties, so that patients continue to get high quality care from the trust during this difficult period.”

Fenwick had previously been appointed chief executive of the newly founded Freeman Group of Hospitals Trust in 1977.

A merger of the three teaching hospitals in Newcastle led to the establishment of Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals Trust, which later became a foundation trust in 2006.

And it was a moment of pride for the organisation when it became the first teaching hospital to be rated outstanding by the CQC in June last year.

Fenwick has proudly protected the independence of the trust, and will certainly be missed in the role, for how long he remains on leave.

“The chair and non-executive directors of the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals Foundation Trust have today confirmed that the trust chief executive, Sir Leonard Fenwick, is taking a period of extended leave. During his absence, Louise Robson, business and development director, and Andrew Welch, medical director, are covering Sir Leonard’s responsibilities,” the trust commented in a statement released to media.

The Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals Foundation Trust delivers healthcare services from six sites:

Freeman Hospital (including the Institute of Transplantation, Northern Centre for Cancer Care and Renal Services Centre);

Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI) (including the Great North Children’s Hospital and the Great North Trauma and Emergency Centre);

Campus for Ageing and Vitality (the former Newcastle General Hospital site) which is home to the Region’s NECTAR Service, Westgate Road Walk in Centre, Newcastle Diabetes Centre, CRESTA Clinics;

Newcastle Dental Hospital;

Newcastle Fertility Centre;

Northern Genetics Service


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