Anger as former boss at troubled Shropshire hospital trust gets ‘improvement’ job

The former chief executive of scandal-hit Shrewsbury & Telford Hospital Trust (SaTH) is now working for an American consultancy firm advising the NHS - in a move branded "obscene" by campaigners.

Simon Wright was in charge of the Trust as it was given three formal warnings over safety failures, and left just months after it went into special measures in November 2018.

Some of the 1,862 cases of alleged poor maternity care currently being investigated also happened on his watch.

Families and campaigners have told our correspondent Charlotte Cross they find his return "obscene".

"I can’t think of anybody less qualified than Simon Wright to give the NHS advice on quality improvement and patient safety,” Gill George, from Defend the NHS in Shropshire, said.

“A record of failure followed by failure followed by failure. The idea that anybody can let him within 100 miles of the NHS is laughable.

"This genuinely is completely obscene - completely, completely unacceptable.”

Simon Wright. Credit: Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust.

After leaving the Trust, Mr Wright set up his own health consultancy, based from his home in Cheshire.

He now has a contract with the Virginia Mason Institute - a hospital group based in Seattle, which was paid £12.5m to improve five UK trusts - including Shropshire.

In the past 24 hours, he has altered his online LinkedIn profile to remove all mention of his work for the NHS through Virginia Mason. He has also re-branded himself as a ‘transformation consultant’, instead of a 'continuous improvement consultant'.

And it makes no mention of the safety concerns he presided over - nor of the families like the Griffiths - who lost their newborn daughter Pippa in 2016, while he was in charge.

Simon Wright's LinkedIn profile specifically mentioned working with the NHS (above) - but has now been changed to remove it (below). Credit: LinkedIn.

“It’s complete and utter denial,” Pippa’s mother Kayleigh said.

“There was just never any accountability. He’s never held his hands up - he’s said ‘I’m sorry, we’ll learn lessons’ but there were no lessons learned. Everything that we’ve seen has proved that Simon Wright never learned any lessons. And the failure starts with him.”

The Virginia Mason Institute declined to comment on their hiring of Mr Wright, saying only: “Our team is very proud of its work and takes seriously its responsibility to help make the health care experience better for clinicians, patients and their families.”

And the Trust declined to comment at all.

Simon Wright oversaw the Trust when the maternity review launched in 2017. Credit: PA Images

For those representing families, it flies in the face of accountability.

Kashmir Uppal is a solicitor at Shoosmiths, representing families who have lost babies, as well as mothers left badly injured by their experiences at SaTH.

“In any other organisation, any chief executive of any public or private body, if things go wrong under their watch, ultimately they are responsible and they are held accountable,” she said. 

“Why should an NHS hospital, which has had so many failings, where the police are now involved, where babies and mothers have died - you can’t get any worse than that - why should there be an exception for this individual?”

Two years after Pippa’s death, another baby girl - Heaven Talbot - was born at the Trust. 

Her parents repeatedly raised concerns over her treatment, and a Serious Incident led to them reporting the hospital trust to police.

For them, Mr Wright’s failure to learn from past mistakes meant their daughter had to suffer unnecessarily.

“He’s got a lot to answer for really, doesn’t he?” Heaven’s mother, Sueann Nester, said. 

“He knows that this stuff is going on. He’s got a lot to answer for.”

For now, though, they - and so many others like them - are still waiting.