South Tees NHS boss resigns saying the trust is financially unsustainable without rescue plan

Siobhan McArdle, second from right, at the opening of the Friarage's Sir Robert Ogden Macmillan Centre. Photo: Doug Jackson.

The chief executive of the South Tees Hospitals Foundation Trust — which runs Northallerton’s Friarage Hospital and the Friary Community Hospital in Richmond — has resigned saying the personal cost of being a CEO in the NHS is too high and “life is just too short”.

In a frank email to colleagues, Siobhan McArdle adds that the trust is financially unsustainable without a long-term rescue plan putting in place.

She said she considered the demands for further efficiency savings were “too great a challenge” and cited what she described as a “very challenging financial and regulatory environment” as factors in her decision to leave.

Ms McArdle, who became chief executive in September 2015, added the South Tees local health economy was both “underfunded and unsustainable”.

The chief executive said she had survived longer as a CEO than she had expected given her “reputation for straight speaking” and joked she might now try a career in football management.

The Care Quality Commission found that the NHS trust required improvement following an inspection earlier this year.

But in the email Ms McArdle denied this was the case.

She said: “Although there is always room for improvement in an organisation of its size, South Tees is not an organisation that requires improvement. South Tees is also financially unsustainable without a much needed long-term financial recovery plan.

“A plan which not only addresses the shortcomings of our PFI contract but also deals with the burden of long-term debt that has built up over many years, and resolves the urgent need for capital investment. This is something the senior leadership team and myself have been fighting continuously for over the last four years.”

She added in the email that she would remain a “great supporter” of the trust and she fully intended to continue to fight for a fairer deal for the people of Teesside, Hambleton, Richmondshire, Whitby and the surrounding areas but “just from a very different place”.

“My final request would be that everyone now gets behind the board and senior leadership team.

“The board and senior leadership team may not always get it right, but I can assure you they work tirelessly on behalf of the organisation, its patients and its people, often at great personal cost to themselves and their families, as of course do many of you.”

Ms McArdle will step down from September 30.

Here is the email to staff in full:

Hello everyone,

Following the latest round of financial forecasting and re-forecasting and what I consider to be too great a challenge with regard to the delivery of further productivity and efficiency savings at South Tees Foundation Trust, I am writing to let you know that I have decided to step down as CEO effective from 30 September 2019.

As many of you know, I joined the trust as director of transformation in April 2015 and shortly after that became a CEO in the following September, something which was certainly not in my career plan at the time. I think it is fair to say, given my reputation for straight speaking, I have lasted far longer than anyone, including me, thought I would – in fact I have exceeded the average term of office of three years for newly appointed CEOs in the NHS by a year and so I am now obviously considering a career in football management as my next move.

I have always done my utmost to defend and promote the interests of our organisation, and I have done so within a very challenging financial and regulatory environment, in a local health economy that I believe is underfunded and unsustainable. Throughout my time in the NHS I am proud to have remained true to my own values, vision and high levels of integrity – values, vision and integrity that I know many of you also share. However, after much debate with my family and friends over the last 12 months, I have now decided that the personal cost of being a CEO in the NHS is just too high and life is just too short.

South Tees Foundation Trust is a fantastic organisation made up of passionate people who have a great reputation for delivering excellence in patient outcomes and experiences. Although there is always room for improvement in an organisation of its size, South Tees is not an organisation that requires improvement. South Tees is also financially unsustainable without a much needed long-term financial recovery plan. A plan which not only addresses the shortcomings of our PFI contract but also deals with the burden of long-term debt that has built up over many years, and resolves the urgent need for capital investment. This is something the senior leadership team and myself have been fighting continuously for over the last four years.

We can all take both pride and satisfaction in having delivered a recovery plan totalling more than £140m over the last five years which has demonstrated that as an organisation we were and are prepared to deliver innovative change and improved efficiency whilst at the same time maintaining patient safety – we now however need to see real transformational change at a system wide level in order to make any further progress.

I hope you all know that I have absolutely given it my all over the last four years and have had a great time at South Tees, reconnecting with lots of old friends whilst also making many, many new ones. I will always remain a great supporter of this organisation and fully intend to continue to fight for a fairer deal for the people of Teeside, Hambleton, Richmondshire, Whitby and the surrounding areas – just from a very different place.

My final request would be that everyone now gets behind the board and senior leadership team. The board and senior leadership team may not always get it right, but I can assure you they work tirelessly on behalf of the organisation, its patients and its people, often at great personal cost to themselves and their families, as of course do many of you.

So my final ask is that everyone now pulls together and sticks together to ensure we get the fair deal South Tees Foundation Trust and our population deserves.

Siobhan