Health boss quits

ONE of the region's top health bosses has handed in his resignation, it emerged today.Stewart Francis, chairman of the Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire Strategic Health Authority, will leave his post at the end of March next year.

ONE of the region's top health bosses has handed in his resignation, it emerged today.

Stewart Francis, chairman of the Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire Strategic Health Authority, will leave his post at the end of March next year.

Mr Francis has been asked by transport secretary Alastair Darling, to take up a full time role overseeing a change from the Rail Passengers Council to a new UK-wide organisation.

His move comes at a time when the SHA has come under the spotlight due to massive debts in the health trusts it oversees.

East Suffolk's health system is currently £24m in the red, and Norfolk's has a £30m deficit.

Mr Francis, who has been chairman of the SHA since its creation three years ago, dismissed claims his resignation had anything to do with the current financial situation as "absolute rubbish."

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He said: "One, another government department have asked me to do a very important job which I can't turn down. Two, I'm very proud of the record of the Strategic Health Authority and, three, I hope to return to the NHS in future."

Mr Francis, who is also chairman of the Rail Passengers Council, will oversee the transition from the old Rail Passengers Council to a new organisation to be effective later next year.

"With these new responsibilities it is clear that next year I will no longer be able to give sufficient time to my NHS role."

Mr Francis said he will remain committed to his role in the NHS for the next four months and is confident the SHA can overcome the challenges it currently faces.

"Like many other parts of the UK, the NHS in East Suffolk is financially challenged and there is certainly a very real challenge to balance the books. We are now working with the PCTs to manage our way out of this problem.

"The fact is, it is manageable. It will take a year or so to bring the books in to balance but I am totally confident that will be done without any effects on patients in East Suffolk at all.

"£20m sounds like a lot of money but when you talk about it in the context of all the health spending in East Suffolk it's a few percentage points."

Mr Francis said in his final few months he will continue working with the SHA to provide a "two-pronged approach" to the situation.

"Short term, this involves ensuring that we do have financial balance through matching the NHS to the sort of service that the patients actually want. In the long term, we will ensure that the overall strategies for Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire are clear."

Mr Francis is also past Chairman of the Commercial Radio Companies Association and past Managing Director of Mid-Anglia Radio plc, as well as an award winning radio broadcaster. He is also a commissioner on the Commission for Integrated Transport.

What do you think of Mr Francis' resignation? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

Opinion - see page 6.

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