Another week, another STP leader gone.
Ian Trimm, the former chief executive of East Churlish Foundation Trust, had been given the top job at Blithering STP to avoid a costly redundancy bill. The STP job with its focus on relationships had suited Trimm, whose own focus on relationships with interims in the finance department had been a big factor in his early retirement from East Churlish. The parlous state of the trust’s finances had been the other.
With no budget, staff or discernible purpose, the STP had seemed like a safe place to put him. “Even Trimm can’t do any harm there,“ Sir Trevor Longstay had said. But Sir Trevor had underestimated Ian Trimm.
His pet project at the STP, the Blithering United Care Partnership, was not quite the “delivery vehicle for the shadow integrated care system” described in its laminated mission and vision statement. After picking their way through its labyrinthine finances, auditors concluded that the Jersey based company was probably a delivery vehicle for Mr Trimm’s shadow pension. As usual no one could prove anything.
Martin Plackard, director of reputation management and investor relations for the STP, cautioned against a hasty or disproportionate response, so the board decided not to alert fraud investigators and instead moved Trimm to a new post as chair of the mental health trust. It was the perfect job for someone who needed to be out of the way of financial temptation. One of Sir Trevor’s more inspired appointments.
Plackard acted quickly to avoid any media fallout. The press release noted Mr Trimm’s significant contribution and remarkable progress in the space of just seven months. A quote from Sir Trevor referred wistfully to “a man of many convictions”. It was now time to hand over to a successor to build on Ian Trimm’s achievements and take Blithering to a new level, the release concluded.
The headline in the Argus was a measure of the success of Plackard’s damage limitation campaign. “Sex-scandal hospital boss sacked again as NHS millions go missing”, it read.
“They don’t have a story,” Plackard reassured the board. “It’s mainly old news and speculation.”
Director of public health Dr David Rummage frowned: “Except for the bits about the sex, the sacking and the missing money. They’re all true,” he said.
Sir Trevor dismissed Rummage’s objection with a wave.
“Detail, Rummage. Detail.”
“Plackard is right,” he said. “This could have been much worse.”
Ruling out Rummage
“What do you think, Plackard?” asked Rummage later, when the meeting broke for lunch and the two men stepped outside for some air.
Plackard shook his head. “I’m not sure it would suit you, David,” he replied. “The STP needs a values-based leader. That probably rules out a doctor.”
“You’re right. Stupid idea,” Rummage said, stubbing out his cigarette on the bonnet of Sir Trevor’s Mercedes.
Plackard predicted that Sir Trevor would take charge of the STP on an interim basis. Almost the whole of Sir Trevor’s career in the health service had consisted of standing in until a suitable replacement could be found, a strategy that explained his unblemished record.
He was, by definition, preferable to the incompetent or disgraced leaders he replaced and usually compared favourably to those who succeeded him. If they did well, he got the credit. If they did not, he could not reasonably be expected to take the blame.
Longstay steps in
“I have decided to take charge of the STP until a suitable successor can be found,” Sir Trevor announced. He paused to accept the congratulations of the Blithering leadership team and gallantly shrugged off objections that he would be putting himself in the firing line.
“It’s not about inconvenience or personal hardship, it’s a question of duty. I have a responsibility to the people of Blithering and I will hold the fort for as long as it takes,” he said, allowing his voice to quaver slightly, as if with emotion.
He stood up. “I must now absent myself from the meeting. You have important decisions to take,“ he said.
The remuneration committee waited until the door had closed behind Sir Trevor, then set about discussing the vital issue of his new salary.
Editor: Julian Patterson
Reproduced at TrainingPrimaryCare.com by kind permission of Julian Patterson.