POLITICIANS have aired their views following the appointment of Jo Whitehead, the new chief executive of Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board.
Ms Whitehead will join the special measures health board from her current role as chief executive of Mackay Hospital and Health Service in Queensland, Australia.
After more than 30 years of experience working in healthcare in both the UK and Australia, Ms Whitehead is now returning to her roots in North Wales.
Simon Dean, interim chief executive, will return to his role as deputy chief executive of NHS Wales, with effect from September 1. Mr Dean was appointed after Gary Doherty stepped down from the post after more than four years in the role.
Darren Millar, Clwyd West MS, said: “Jo will be taking on the toughest job in the Welsh public sector so I wish her every success in her new role and I look forward to working with her to secure the improvements necessary to bring the BCUHB out of special measures and secure the improvements that patients deserve.”
Ann Jones, Vale of Clwyd MS, said: “The announcement of the new CEO for Betsi is welcomed and I would like to say thank you to the Simon Dean, who both stepped in and stepped up to the challenge.
“Working alongside Mark Polin [chair of BCUHB] they have steered the health board through the difficulty and challenging days of the pandemic.
“I am sure that the appointment of Jo Whitehead will serve to strengthen the board and I look forward to working with her and the rest of the board in the best interests of health needs across our communities.”
Speaking about taking over the reins, Ms Whitehead said: “It is a great privilege to have been given this opportunity to make a real difference to people’s lives and improve health outcomes across our communities across North Wales.
“I am determined to help the health board meet its challenges and provide health care services our communities and our staff can be proud of.
“I am looking forward to working in the NHS in Wales, and it really is a homecoming for me, North Wales is where I was born and grew up and so it is a real honour.
“For many years I have admired the partnership-focused structure of the NHS in Wales and the possibilities it provides for developing great, sustainable health care services and I am now looking forward to getting started.”
James Davies, MP for Vale of Clwyd, said: “Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board has been in special measures now since 2015, so Jo certainly has her work cut out.
“However, with her wealth of experience, I am hopeful that she will rise to the challenge and provide the leadership required to reverse the fate of this much troubled health board.
“I very much look forward to meeting Jo to discuss priorities and ways forward for health and social care across North Wales and to working with her to help make the improvements needed to provide the people of North Wales with the health service they both need and deserve.”
Ms Whitehead was appointed following a competitive recruitment process.
Vaughan Gething MS, Wales’ Minister for Health and Social Services, said: “Jo Whitehead grew up in North Wales and demonstrated during the process a strong understanding of the health and social care challenges for the region and a clear sense as to how they should be addressed.
“Simon Dean has provided strong leadership during the past seven months whilst the health board responded with rapid and decisive action to Covid-19. As the NHS plans and prepares for the winter challenges it is imperative he returns to his national role.
“I wish to thank him personally for extending his time with the health board by a further two months than originally agreed and for setting the foundations for developing an ambitious approach to developing sustainable services in line with the vision set out in A Healthier Wales.”
Gill Harris, deputy chief executive and director of nursing, will take over as acting chief executive and accountable officer for four months from September 1.
Mr Gething added: “She will play a key role in aiding transition and working with Jo Whitehead who will be engaging with the chair, the Board and the executive team before she officially starts.
“The chair and the Board are confident that Gill Harris, supported by her colleagues, will lead the organisation well during the next four months and strategically support the incoming chief executive on future plans and direction.
“This demonstrates strengthened confidence in the senior leadership within the health board, to build upon, as it drives forward a more transformative approach to support improved outcomes.”