Lucy Letby: NHS England ‘persuaded’ trust boss to take new job

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By Michael Buchanan
Social affairs correspondent, BBC News

The man who was chief executive of the NHS trust where Lucy Letby murdered seven babies said he was asked to take a top job in London after the serial killer had been arrested.

Tony Chambers went on to get three senior NHS jobs following the nurse’s arrest for murdering babies.

And in a now-deleted blog, he wrote about being “persuaded” to take the job in London by a senior NHS England boss.

NHS England said its London region had been unaware of the murder probe.

Earlier this month, Letby was convicted of the murder of seven babies and the attempted murder of six others at the Countess of Chester Hospital’s neonatal unit. She will never be freed from prison.

A BBC investigation found paediatric consultants on the neonatal unit where she worked had raised concerns about her for more than a year before the Countess of Chester NHS Trust called in police to investigate.

The doctors felt their concerns had been ignored by senior hospital bosses at the trust – while Mr Chambers was chief executive.

They were even asked to apologise to the nurse, following an internal disciplinary process.

Mr Chambers resigned from the Countess of Chester NHS Trust in September 2018, two months after Letby’s arrest. He then moved to a role with the Northern Care Alliance, an NHS body in Greater Manchester.

But in January 2020, while police were still investigating multiple murders in Chester, he was appointed interim CEO of the Barking, Havering and Redbridge NHS Trust, in east London.

Baby serial killer Lucy Letby

In a blog, which was published on the trust’s website shortly after his appointment, he said he was asked to move to London by a senior NHS England official.

“Having had a long and varied career in the NHS I’ve made lots of friends, including Sir David Sloman, the NHS Regional Director for London,” wrote Mr Chambers.

“He’s been trying to persuade me to come and work in London for a number of years, and I saw this as an opportunity to do something different.”

The blog has now been deleted, but it was seen by BBC News before being removed.

The BBC understands NHS England also had a representative on the interview panel for the post, and that a reference was provided by the Countess of Chester NHS Trust.

However, the BBC also understands his appointment to lead the London trust was made when Mr Chambers was effectively blocked from getting similar jobs in the north-west of England.

NHS England bosses in the North West did not consider him a suitable candidate to become a chief executive at another trust in the region at that time, BBC News was told: “There were opportunities [after Chester],” said one NHS source, “but he didn’t get any jobs.”

Letby was charged with murdering babies in November 2020. And Mr Chambers left the Barking, Havering and Redbridge NHS Trust in August 2021.

He then joined the Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust, where he worked as interim CEO until January 2022.

In a now-deleted blog Mr Chambers said he had been persuaded to run a London NHS trust

He was subsequently appointed interim CEO of the Queen Victoria Hospital in West Sussex, in February of this year, months after Letby’s trial had started. He resigned in June.

BBC News understands all the appointments were approved by NHS England, with a representative on each interview panel.

NHS England said all interim CEO posts were made “through a competitive process run by the relevant trusts”.

It said Mr Chambers had also been offered the job in London “following a competitive process”: “As regional director for London, Sir David Sloman was not aware of the events at the Countess of Chester when Tony Chambers was appointed,” it added.

“NHS England has in the last few weeks strengthened the fit and proper person framework by bringing in additional background checks and ensuring that assessments are recorded on the national electronic staff record system so that they are transferable to other NHS organisations as part of their recruitment processes.”

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