New chief executive appointed to troubled Betsi Cadwaladr health board

Ms Whitehead was born in North Wales Credit: Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board

A new chief executive has been appointed to Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board.

Jo Whitehead, currently the Chief Executive of Mackay Hospital and Health Service in Queensland, Australia, will take up the role in January 2021.

Ms Whitehead said: “It is a great privilege to have been given this opportunity to make a real difference to people’s lives and improve health outcomes across our communities across North Wales.

“I am determined to help the Health Board meet its challenges and provide health care services our communities and our staff can be proud of.

“I am looking forward to working in the NHS in Wales, and it really is a homecoming for me. North Wales is where I was born and grew up and so it is a real honour."

The interim Chief Executive, Simon Dean, will return to his role as Deputy Chief Executive and Gill Harris, the Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Nursing, will perform the role of Chief Executive until Ms Whitehead's arrival in January.

Mark Polin, Chair of Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, said: “I’m pleased to welcome Jo back to the UK as our new Chief Executive. She performed very well in what was a competitive recruitment process and impressed the Health Board and partner representatives involved in her selection. She demonstrated a very strong understanding of the health and social care challenges in North Wales and a clear sense as to how they should be addressed."

The health board has been in special measures since 2015

  • Analysis by James Crichton-Smith

The task facing Betsi Cadwaladr's new CEO is arguably one of the biggest in Wales. The north Wales health board has been in the tunnel of special measures for five years - and there is still no clear sign of when it will emerge out of the other side.While the health board and Welsh Government - which took the decision to place the board into special measures - is keen to stress that improvements have been made, there remain stubborn concerns.

Most recently, the quality of mental health services, staff morale, the loss of staff and patient care have all been the source of alarm for patients, families, staff and politicians. Many are still unconvinced that the health board is making the change promised, and so desperately needed.

Ms Whitehead is due to start her role in January 2021. She'll leave the summer of Australia for a north Wales winter. Adjusting to the weather could be tough, the new job certainly will be.