Manchester mental health trust chief quits ahead of damning report

The chief executive of Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust, which was hit by a series of strikes last year over the dismissal of a Unison activist, resigned this week.

Sheila Foley’s decision to quit was described by the trust as a “personal one”. But it came the day before the publication of a highly critical report on the care trust and mental health services in the city in general, whose chief recommendation was for a “concerted period of leadership and management” at the trust.

Foley was appointed as the third chief executive in a year on a fixed-term basis in April 2007. This followed the implementation in 2005-6 of the £3.9m Change in Mind programme to modernise services through greater emphasis on recovery and social inclusion, and reduced use of in-patient beds. 

Failure to meet NSF targets

The plan was designed to address a long-standing failure to meet key targets in the 1999 national service framework for mental health.

According to this week’s report, commissioned by Manchester Primary Care Trust and the city council from a team of NHS leaders, this prompted opposition from some staff and two days of industrial action in early 2007.

Foley’s remit, the report said, was to “address the industrial relations culture and complete the implementation of Change in Mind”.

However, the suspension of community psychiatric nurse and Unison branch chair Karen Reissmann in June 2007 prompted a wave of strikes, which was repeated when Reissmann was sacked for gross misconduct last November.

Speaking out against service cuts

Reissmann always claimed that she was sacked for speaking out against cuts to local services and national mental health policy.

This week’s report said: “There seems to have been a small but significant group of staff who have resisted the Change in Mind programme. It is our view that fuller engagement of these staff at an earlier stage might have forestalled some of the problems that have consequently arisen.”

However, it added that some of the opposition may have been driven by national policy and therefore impossible for the trust to address.

Progress stalled by leadership changes

The report said progress in mental health services Manchester had been stalled by organisational and senior leadership changes, meaning stability at the top of the care trust was vital to embed the Change in Mind reforms.

Though Foley had recently been appointed permanently to the chief executive’s post, the report said: “The matter of whether or not she continues in post is for the care trust. However, we recommend strongly that a commitment is made for a three- to five-year period either for her or a successor.”

Deputy chief executive Tracy Ellery, who has taken over Foley’s duties, said the care trust, PCT and council would work to appoint “a new chief executive who is able to offer a long-term commitment upon which we can build a solid future for the care trust”.

All three organisations have vowed to produce an action plan to implement the report’s recommendations, which also include new local performance indicators for mental health.

Related articles

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Manchester mental health staff to strike for third time
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