Caroline Donovan, Chief Executive Officer at Lancashire and South Cumbria Foundation Trust is today announcing her plans to retire next year following a long and successful career in the NHS.

Caroline joined the Trust in 2019 with a strong track record of improvement having led her previous Trust to an Outstanding rating from the Care Quality Commission (CQC). Since joining she has led the organisation through a raft of improvements culminating in much greater levels of both patient and staff satisfaction. This was evidenced by a recent, very positive CQC report; a compliments-to-complaints ratio of 7:1; vastly improved results in the national NHS staff survey; and just last week LSCft being a finalist in no fewer than six HSJ awards, the highest number nationally for a single Trust. 

Caroline said:

"With the imminent appointment of a new Chair, and after considerable thought and reflection, I have decided to announce my retirement plans. This will enable the incoming chair to appoint a new CEO. The incoming Chair and the new CEO can, together, shape the next stage of LSCft’s journey. Over the next few weeks I will be handing over the role to Chris Oliver, Deputy Chief Executive and I know that this will be a great opportunity for Chris and he will rise to this challenge.

I’d like to take the opportunity to thank all of the staff of LSCft for your commitment, dedication and support. I have been incredibly proud to be your CEO for the last three and a half years. Our values of kindness, respect, teamwork and learning are evident throughout the Trust. I hope you agree that, whilst we are still on the improvement journey, the culture here is now more open, more supportive and more positive.”

Caroline has led the Trust’s radical expansion and improvement across mental health pathways with waiting times significantly reduced within A and E departments. On her arrival at LSCft, only 35% of people with a mental health need were being assessed in one hour across the four A and E departments in Lancashire and South Cumbria. Now, 95% of people are assessed within one hour - a significant difference in timely mental health support, and a huge improvement to those patients’ experience. She has led significant transformation and quality improvements and facilitated much greater partnership working with primary care, the voluntary sector, police and local authorities.

David Eva, Chairman of Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust said:

“On behalf of the Trust Board I’d like to pay tribute to Caroline for her unstinting commitment to our service users, carers and staff and thank her for everything she has done for the Trust. 

Since joining in 2019 she has overseen the acquisition of South Cumbria Mental Health and Learning Disability Services; the development of a much needed inpatient bed expansion programme; the opening of a new rehabilitation hospital; the development of four mental health urgent assessment centres; secured quality improvement across the Trust; improved staff satisfaction, and spearheaded a truly inclusive and patient centred approach.

Caroline also led the successful restructure of the organisation to align with system partners, established a clinically-led culture and enabled further integration of physical and mental health; and secured strong partnership working. I know you will join me in wishing her well and look forward to working with her in her new role.”

Caroline has been, and remains, a passionate advocate for people with mental health, learning disability and autism needs, and is looking forward to using her experience to support NHS England after stepping down from her role, working with the regional and national teams on the mental health urgent and emergency care strategy in preparation for this coming winter - a significant priority for the NHS. 

Caroline said:

“I am incredibly proud of the many achievements of the Executive Team, and our wonderful leaders and staff. Their determination to improve and transform services and manage the pandemic in the most difficult circumstances has been exemplary.

It has been a real privilege to work with many people including partners and service users and carers. Whilst I am sad to be leaving, I leave with full confidence in the staff of the Trust. I am delighted that I will be working with NHS England's National Mental Health Team continuing to support improved access and better services for people with mental health needs.“

Claire Murdoch, National Director for Mental Health at NHS England said:

“Caroline has led significant improvements at both LSCft and North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare Trust before that. She brings a wealth of experience of successful transformation and I really look forward to her joining the national team.”