Northern Ireland

Northern Health Trust boss Sean Donaghy to step aside

Sean Donaghy
Image caption Sean Donaghy is stepping aside after fewer than three years as chief executive at the Northern trust

The chief executive of the troubled Northern Health and Social Care Trust is to step aside from his post.

Sean Donaghy will take up a new post with the Health and Social Care Board.

Health Minister Edwin Poots said that the move was by mutual agreement, to "enhance the strategic leadership in this high priority area".

Mr Poots also announced the appointment of two senior executives to the trust as part of the drive to improve its performance.

The Northern Health Trust has been under considerable pressure, mainly due to the poor performance of the Antrim Area hospital's accident and emergency department.

'Difficult circumstances'

For successive winters, the hospital has experienced excessive trolley waits, with regular breaches to both its four and 12-hour targets.

The Department of Health said the two new senior executives - Mary Hinds and Paul Cummings - have been appointed in response to the emerging findings of the trust's "turnaround and support team".

The support team was appointed by the health minister in December 2012, due to his concerns about the Northern trust's performance, particularly about the "lack of sufficient improvement in emergency department waiting times".

Mr Donaghy said: "I have agreed to this course of action, and I am confident that the new team will have the support of all in the trust in seeking to resolve the difficulties it has faced over many years.

"I believe they will benefit from the work that I and my colleagues in the trust have been doing in difficult circumstances over my time in the trust.

"The staff are rightly proud of the services throughout the trust, and I want to acknowledge their clear commitment to improving emergency care waiting times for the benefit of patients."


Until Thursday's announcement, Mary Hinds worked at Northern Ireland's Public Heath Agency while Mr Cummings was employed at the Health and Social Care Board.

They will both join the Northern trust on "temporary secondment".

Mr Donaghy has worked in the National Health Service for 30 years and was appointed to the trust's top job in September 2010.

He will now take up a post as regional director of "eHealth and external collaboration" at the Health and Social Care Board.

The health minister said he wished Mr Donaghy well in his "important" new role.

Mr Poots said that he recognised the personal commitment that Mr Donaghy had brought in his time as chief executive of the Northern trust, and the efforts he had been making to secure improvement.

The minister said he appreciated Mr Donaghy's "agreement to pass the baton to the new team".

Sacked chairman

Mr Poots said he also intends to appoint a new interim medical director to the Northern trust.

In the department's statement it was said the current medical director, Dr Peter Flanagan, had originally intended to retire next year.

However, the statement said that "given the current scale of organisational change, Dr Flanagan feels that the appropriate time to take this step is now".

Dr Flanagan has agreed to take up the post of associate medical director when his interim replacement is appointed.

He will work on in a support role until a permanent appointment is made.

Mr Poots said he recognised Dr Flanagan's dedication to his role and thanked him for his commitment to patient care.

In December 2012, the health minister sacked Jim Stewart, the chairman of the Northern trust, after the organisation failed to meet accident and emergency targets.

His sacking was the first time that a senior health manager had been removed from his post at a Northern Ireland trust.

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