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I wanted to carry on, says axed Whittington boss

Hospital chairman speaks out after announcing his immediate departure at a public board meeting on Wednesday

28 June, 2019 — By Emily Finch

Going: Steve Hitchins

NHS chiefs have dropped the embattled chairman of Whittington Hospital Trust.

Steve Hitchins, who has been at the helm of the trust based at the hospital in Archway since 2014, said “his term was not renewed” by NHS England.

Mr Hitchins announced his immediate departure at a public board meeting on Wednesday. He said he had decided to stand down without waiting until the end of his term in September.

Speaking to the Tribune, he said: “I don’t want to be hanging around when I know I’m going and it gets difficult to persuade people. I prefer a quick exit.”

He said he “would have quite liked to have carried on” as chairman. He was not told the exact reasons why his term was not renewed.

“They have completely reorganised London, with new regional directors. There is an awful lot of change in the NHS. I think they are looking for a new style, new blood and a fresh start. That’s fair enough,” he said.

Of his time as chairman, he said: “We’ve largely cleared the debt and made a sur­plus the last two years. Perform­ance is rising. You can’t say that about all other trusts.”

The trust reported a deficit of £1.5m at the end of April, but noted income was ahead of plan.

Mr Hitchins has faced criticism from hospital campaigners over the way he handled a contract between the trust and Ryhurst, part of the Rydon group behind the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower. The hospital later backed out of the deal.

His departure had nothing to do with the Ryhurst contract, he said. “A lot of people made a lot of fuss over some­thing that was just un­fortunate timing. We were caught in all that turmoil and that was a great shame. I think we dealt with it measuredly and we’ve come out of it with a solution.”

Shirley Franklin, from Defend the Whittington Coalition, said: “Thank god he’s going. He chose a company like Ryhurst. They told us he couldn’t withdraw the contract and then they did. He should have immediately can­celled the contract. I don’t feel sorry for him at all.”

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