A single chair for north west London's acute trusts to support more collaborative working

The north west London NHS has agreed to appoint a single chair for its four acute trusts – Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust and The Hillingdon Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

The four organisations have already established closer partnership working through a joint acute care board, set up in March 2021 after the Covid-19 pandemic demonstrated the positive impact of greater collaboration. The board works to make the best possible use of the trusts’ collective resources and to offer patients more joined up and consistently high quality care.

Now, with existing or upcoming chair vacancies at each of the trusts, the organisations are taking the opportunity to work under a single chair. The move follows similar approaches across the country and reflects wider NHS policy. NHS England and Improvement have endorsed the approach, as have the relevant trust’s Council of Governors at their meetings this week. A transparent recruitment process will now be developed, alongside further consideration of how a single chair will interact with separate trust boards and committees.

Working more as one team has been of huge benefit to both patients and staff throughout the pandemic. Our trusts remain separate organisations, responsible for delivering their own budgets and performance standards. However, with increasing focus on how we are performing not only as individual trusts but as the north west London NHS, we have an additional incentive to ensure we all deliver on our commitments for improved quality of care and efficiency. This is likely to involve more joint planning, benchmarking and sharing of expertise across the four trusts and across the wider healthcare system.

The trusts also remain committed to continuing a strong site-based focus. Each of the 12 hospitals across the trusts will need to meet clear goals and performance standards. We will also build on local relationships and partnerships, both to support joined up care and to develop the role of our hospitals as ‘anchor institutions’, supporting their local communities and economies.

To formalise closer partnership working, the trusts are developing a collaboration agreement, which we hope to have in place by early autumn.

* In foundation trusts (such as Chelsea and Westminster and Hillingdon hospitals) chairs are appointed by the Trust itself, with the support of its Council of Governors. NHS England/Improvement appoints chairs for NHS trusts (such as Imperial College Healthcare)

Read the acute care programme briefing - published April 2021