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Health bosses deny chief quit over finances

PUBLISHED: 14:25 17 March 2010 | UPDATED: 08:56 02 July 2010

Norfolk Primary Care Trust chief executive Julie Garbutt

Norfolk Primary Care Trust chief executive Julie Garbutt

Dan Grimmer

Bosses from NHS Norfolk have "categorically denied" its chief executive is leaving the organisation because it is in financial difficulty.

Bosses from NHS Norfolk have “categorically denied” its chief executive is leaving the organisation because it is in financial difficulty.

Questions have been raised over the departure of Julie Garbutt as she becomes the fifth high level member of staff to leave the primary care trust in just 18 months.

Julie Garbutt last week announced she was leaving her post after three years, to take up the position of chief executive officer for health and social care for the States of Jersey.

Ms Garbutt follows a succession of high-profile departures in recent months. Last summer, amid a potential swine flu pandemic, Dr John Battersby, the former director of public health, left his post to work at the East Anglian Regional Public Health Observatory;

Dr John Sampson, former chairman of the clinical executive committee, also stood down; Anna Bennett, former director of commissioning also left and so did Anne Donkin, former director of planning, procurement and performance.

But today health bosses said these departures are “totally normal” for an organisation of this kind, said they are now set to break even by the end of the financial year and showed “full support” for Ms Garbutt's new role.

In December 2009 NHS Norfolk warned it would struggle to break even by the end of the financial year as pressure on services continued to mount.

The predicted overspend of £17m has been clawed back due to “good housekeeping” and now bosses said they are aiming to break even.

Chairwoman Sheila Childerhouse said: “In the last three years NHS Norfolk has cleared an inherited £50m deficit, brought about financial stability, strengthened its management and clinical leadership enormously and developed a clear strategy for the type of health services it will commission in the years to come.

“NHS Norfolk is one of the largest and most complex primary care trusts in Great Britain with a budget of £1.1m and a population of 740,000 people to serve. In the last few years we have put in place an exceptionally strong management, clinical executive and a robust Board to ensure we are an effective and responsive PCT in the years ahead.”

However North Norfolk MP and Lib Dem health spokesman Norman Lamb said he is concerned about the future of the organisation.

“I am not convinced that NHS Norfolk have dug themselves out of a financial black hole and it seems a strange time for its chief executive to be leaving. There have been a lot of high-level managers leaving and I wonder if it because it really isn't a well-functioning organisation.

“The trust needs to employ someone dynamic to take it through this period but I am sure a lot of people are disappointed the organisation is going through yet another change.”

Do you have a health story for the Evening News? Call Sarah Hall on 01603 772426 or email sarah.hall2@archant.co.uk.

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