New Preston and Chorley hospitals' boss is a familiar face in Lancashire

The new boss of the Royal Preston and Chorley and South Ribble hospitals has been unveiled – and he already knows all about the challenges of running major NHS facilities in Lancashire.

Kevin McGee, who is currently chief executive of the organisations that operate Blackpool Victoria and the Royal Blackburn hospitals, is now preparing to take on the top job at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (LTH).

His appointment follows the announcement back in January that Karen Partington, who has held the role for a decade, will retire at the end of the year after more than 40 years in the NHS.

It is unclear whether that timetable will now change following confirmation that Mr. McGee has secured the post. Ms. Partington previously said that she would honour a commitment to give a years’ notice, rather than the required six months, in order to allow time to find her successor.

Kevin McGee is set to take over the top job at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

The Local Democracy Reporting Service understands that there has been no firm decision over whether Kevin McGee will continue to lead Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust – where he is currently in charge – or focus solely on LTH.

There have been moves to forge closer co-operation between Lancashire’s four hospital trusts in recent years, with a system of so-called “mutual aid” developed as a mechanism to provide assistance across organisational boundaries and relieve pressure on one or more of them when needed. It recently swung into action during the pandemic when it was used to maximise critical care capacity in the county.

All of the trusts are also part of Lancashire and South Cumbria’s Integrated Care System (ICS), the partnership of health and social care organisations designed to overhaul the way care is delivered across the patch. Mr. McGee is currently the “hospital cell lead” for that wider region.

If he did take on the trio of trusts running from Blackpool in the west, via Preston and Chorley, to Blackburn in the east, the only one wholly located in Lancashire that he would not control is University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust to the north. Yet it is with the latter that LTH is currently collaborating in an attempt to secure government cash for either one new acute facility in the region – dubbed a “super hospital” – or two, which, under either scenario, would ultimately replace the Royal Preston and Royal Lancaster Infirmary.

Kevin McGee said in a statement that he was “absolutely delighted” about taking over at LTH.

“[It is] a leading major trauma and specialist tertiary centre [and] plays a pivotal role in the local health and care system.

“I am determined to ensure that we provide our local communities with the best possible services in collaboration with our key partners and by maximising the opportunities presented by the New Hospitals Programme.”

Mr. McGee has worked at director level for over 20 years with a specific background in finance, but has also undertaken roles as chief operating officer and in commissioning and performance management.

At an ICS board meeting in March, he issued a candid assessment of the “difficult decisions” that lie ahead if the NHS in Lancashire and South Cumbria is to hit a £200m savings target in the financial year ahead.

“We’re going to have to do things…that reduce our reliance on staff – and particularly the use of bank and agency staff – which means that we’re not going to be able to do everything in all locations [and] that we’re not all going to be able to have all the support services that we have had.

“We’re going to need to do some really difficult stuff around consolidation of staff [and] services – and, ultimately, the configuration of what we have now will look very different in the future.

“It can be better, but it will look different. Unless we get right behind that [and] we are prepared to make some really difficult decisions and have some really difficult conversations…we’re not going to get on top of this,” said Mr. McGee at the time.

Professor Ebrahim Adia, LTH chair, thanked those from across the trust and the regional healthcare system, who had helped make the decision to appoint Mr. McGee, who has led the East Lancashire trust since 2014 and added Blackpool to his responsibilities in 2019.

“As you would expect with a post of this importance, the recruitment process has been extensive. Kevin has an excellent track record of delivering financial and performance improvements and his knowledge of the Lancashire health and care system will help us to continue to build our partnerships to the benefit of patients.

“I would like to put on record my personal thanks to Karen Partington who has been an exemplary chief executive and a popular and charismatic leader throughout her long tenure at the trust and, indeed, during her extensive NHS career.

“Karen will be greatly missed when she retires later on this year,” Professor Adia added.

The final 18 months of her time in the job has been dominated by dealing with the fallout from the pandemic on hospital services in Central Lancashire.

Since 2016, she has also been wrestling with the future of Chorley A&E. Just as a public consultation finally appeared to be on the horizon into that issue, the intervention of the health secretary, Matt Hancock, earlier this year led to a decision for the matter to be resolved as part of the New Hospitals Programme. A consultation into that scheme is expected to begin by the end of the year.