Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board boss Jo Whitehead to step down after two years

Jo Whitehead will retire at the end of 2022 due to "family circumstances." Credit: BCUHB

The chief executive of a troubled north Wales health board will step down at the end of the year due to "family circumstances."

Jo Whitehead, who took up her position as Chief Executive of Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board in 2020, will retire in December.

In a statement, Ms Whitehead said the decision had been "extremely difficult for her."

She said: “My decision to retire at this time is personal. The last few months have brought some serious health challenges for my father in law, with consequences for my husband who has had to bring forward his own retirement plans and go to Germany to be with his father. This has caused us to consider how we want to spend our time and has led me to conclude that it is time for me to retire from my Chief Executive role.

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board was in special measures from 2015 to 2020. Credit: ITV News

“My 37-year career has taken me from Sheffield, Leicester, Bristol, London, Herefordshire, Australia and right back home to North Wales – quite a journey, with each role bringing joy and challenges. I am grateful for the opportunities the NHS in England and Wales have provided to me.

“It has been a great privilege to have been given the opportunity at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board and I am proud of the achievements in North Wales which would not have been possible without the support of everyone in the integrated board and NHS Wales. BCUHB is full of the most amazing people and I wish the organisation well.

“This has been an extremely difficult decision for me and is one I have not taken lightly.  I am leaving earlier than I had originally intended but my family is incredibly important to me and must come first.”

A Welsh Government spokesperson thanked Ms Whitehead for her work leading the health board through the pandemic, adding: "We will support the health board in its search for a new chief executive and as it develops interim arrangements.”

Betsi Cadwaladr health board was placed in special measures in 2015 due to failings across a range of areas.

In November 2020, the Welsh Government took the health board out of special measures and moved it to a 'targeted intervention' status. But a series of damning reports since then have prompted some to call for it to be moved back into special measures.

'Unhelpful and unhealthy'

Welsh Conservative MS Darren Millar has raised concerns about the "revolving door and constant change" at the top of the health board.

Mr Millar said: "I wish Jo Whitehead all the best for a long and happy retirement and thank her for her service to North Wales, particularly during the challenges posed by the pandemic. 

“The next Chief Executive of the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board will be its seventh in 13 years. This revolving door and constant change at the top is unhelpful and unhealthy.

"The NHS in North Wales desperately needs strong long-term leadership to overcome the ongoing challenges it faces and turn failing services around."