EDP: New mental health boss appointment branded ‘disastrous’ by campaigners

Geraldine Scott of the Eastern Daily Press reports:

The appointment of a new mental health boss has been branded “disastrous” by campaigners due to the new chief’s background in NHS funding.

That means cuts. The STP’s own figures show that forty per cent of the ‘savings’ are due to funding not keeping up with inflation.

Antek Lejk is currently the chief officer at south and north Norfolk clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and also heads up the biggest shake-up of healthcare in Norfolk and Waveney in a generation, known as the sustainability and transformation plan (STP).

Under the STP health chiefs have to save £300m from Norfolk and Waveney’s NHS by 2021.

That’s NHS cuts of £300 million pounds.

But it was announced today (Thursday) he will give those positions up to become the boss at Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT), which was plunged back into special measures last year.

The NSFT council of governors approved his appointment today – but not without dissent. The public meeting began some 20 minutes late, and one governor said this was due to “disagreement” in private over whether to approve Mr Lejk.

Antek Lejk’s feedback from the service user and carer appointment panel was appalling. Unbelievably so.

We challenge the NSFT Chair, Gary Page and Mr Lejk to publish the service user and carer appointment panel’s damning findings.

You learn everything you need to know about Mr Lejk by considering that he will is willing to force himself into a job knowing that he is not wanted by the people he is supposed to serve.

We also have severe reservations about the appointment process which we have raised with NHS Improvement and its Improvement Director, Philippa Slinger: it appears, amongst other matters, that shortlisted female candidates with more recent and relevant experience were encouraged to withdraw outside the formal process, two of whom will probably leave NSFT. Fortuitously for him given his interview performance, the result was Mr Lejk becoming the only candidate for the job.

In the vote, nine governors approved the appointment, four voted against and two abstained.

Shame on the nine.

But a spokesman for the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk said after the meeting: “This is a disastrous appointment for service users and carers, the head of the commissioners who have starved NSFT of funding has now taken over the organisation. It’s a travesty and the council of governors whose job it is to represent service users, carers, staff, and the public ignored the views of the appointment panels and approved this appointment instead of listening to feedback.”

There also seems to be a real conflict of interest with the head of the STP and lead commissioner applying to become the head of one of the organisations he commissions and evaluates.

Mr Lejk said: “I am excited and proud to be asked to help lead NSFT. I am especially looking forward to meeting service users, carers and staff.

The problem is that the service users, carers and staff who have already met Mr Lejk on the appointment panel probably aren’t looking forward to meeting him.

“I have always had a particular interest and passion for mental health. I have led two mental health organisations in the past and I am keen to help NSFT move on from its current difficulties and emerge a stronger, even better organisation serving the people of Norfolk and Suffolk.”

Mr Lejk’s claimed passion for mental health doesn’t explain why he last worked in a mental health trust more than ten years ago. Mr Lejk didn’t bother to turn up to the Norfolk Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee when it devoted an entire session to mental health after NSFT was placed in Special Measures for an unprecedented second time. Mr Lejk sent his deputy instead.

We suspect Mr Lejk is motivated by a substantial pay rise and the NHS bureaucracy’s desire to silence NSFT’s executives on the subject of its underfunding.

It has not been revealed how much Mr Lejk will be paid, but previous permanent chief executive Michael Scott earned between £170,000 and £175,000.

Michael ‘Pay out’ Scott is unbelievably still being paid his £175,000 salary by NSFT.

If Mr Lejk trousers the same amount, the man who has led the secretive NHS cuts process in Norfolk, the STP, will see his own NHS salary rise by a staggering 25 per cent. Since they were established in 2013-14, the Norfolk CCGs have slashed NSFT’s share of the Norfolk NHS budget by 8.3 per cent while referrals have risen by 48 per cent.

Don’t forget that the commissioners who promised that there would be no more out of area bed placements after April 2014 were happy to break their promise and waste millions of pounds for years transporting children, adults and old people in crisis to private hospitals across the country or to the inadequate-rated Mundesley Hospital even after the CQC report said that NSFT does not have enough beds rather than provide local NHS beds and only stopped when the media made the Care Quality Commission’s threat to close the hospital public.

While this has been going on, commissioners have paid themselves more and more money. We’re sure Mr Lejk’s pay rise will work wonders for the morale of front line staff.

Mr Scott announced his retirement in September shortly before the publication of the damning inspection report which found NSFT to be unsafe. In the interim the trust’s former finance director, Julie Cave, has been at the helm.

Except it wasn’t a retirement. He’s still being paid by NSFT but not working for them.

She had put herself forward for the permanent position, but it was revealed last week had withdrawn.

Governors praised Mrs Cave for her work and said they hoped she would stay on.

We understand that Mrs Cave withdrew outside of the formal process after it became clear to her that there was a preferred candidate and it was Mr Lejk.

Who is Antek Lejk?

Mr Lejk has more than 10 years’ experience as a chief executive and as a chief officer – including leading two mental health organisations – with more than 20 years of experience working at director and board level within NHS commissioning and provider organisations.

Mr Lejk has worked in eleven jobs with nine organisations in twenty-one years. What does that say about him?

At least we can’t expect him to stay for more than a couple of years. But what will he do while he’s here?

For the past two decades he has worked mostly within the NHS, spending nine years as chief executive of two NHS trusts and a primary care trust, as well as a chief Executive of a charitable company.

For at least the last decade he has been a commissioner and bureaucrat rather than delivering front line services in a secondary care trust. Most of the small amount of real work in CCGs is outsourced to ‘commissioning support units’.

But his name hit the headlines in 2010 when he was pulled in front of the government’s health select committee to answer questions over Nigerian-born German doctor Daniel Ubani.

Dr Ubani, who administered a fatal overdose on his first and only shift in the UK, had been refused work by Leeds Primary Care Trust (PCT).

But at the time Mr Lejk admitted his PCT in Cornwall did not even attempt to assess Dr Ubani’s language skills, which meant he was allowed to work in the UK.

Here is an except from the Select Committee proceedings:

Q35 Dr Stoate: I want to ask Mr Lejk a specific question about Dr Daniel Ubani. The current rules are that if a doctor is registered anywhere in the EEA they are entitled to go onto the GMC’s Register. No question. However, in order to be a GP in this country they have to be on a performers list and, as we have heard before, that is the responsibility of Primary Care Trusts. In order get on a performers list the PCT must be satisfied of the clinical skills of that doctor and their performance in the language. What checks did your PCT make in putting Dr Ubani on the performers list?

Mr Lejk: I think what we acknowledge is that at that time we were not as rigorous as we are now because we were making assumptions around the assurances that come from GMC registration and also, being an EU national, there was the whole debate about how you could apply the language test. We have now changed our system so that anyone who does not have a qualification from an English speaking country will automatically have to provide evidence of a language test.

Q36 Dr Stoate: My question is not about what you do now. My question was what checks did you make because you were responsible to ensure his clinical standards and language skills were up to speed. What checks did you make?

Mr Lejk: At the time we had no reason to feel that he was not competent.

Q37 Dr Stoate: You had no reason to think that he was competent, either.

Mr Lejk: Yes and we acknowledge that our systems were not as tight as they should have been so we have had to tighten them up since.

Notice the language: Mr Lejk says ‘we have had to tighten them up’ as in ‘been forced to tighten them up’ rather than ‘we have tightened them up’. Language does matter. Is Mr Lejk’s language that of a professional who see safety as paramount or that of a bureaucrat who sees safety as a costly inconvenience?

Q38 Dr Stoate: Did you know at that time he had already been refused from another performers list?

Mr Lejk: No, we did not.

Q39 Dr Stoate: You made no checks about that at all.

Mr Lejk: No, we did not.

Q40 Dr Stoate: I suppose you have already answered this in a way, but what are you going to do to make sure it never happens again?

Mr Lejk: Like I say, not only are we tightening up our arrangements around language competency, we are also not assuming that just because somebody is a qualified doctor that they are going to be fit to practise and have the skill level. We have set up a new panel with a medical director and myself who review all the cases including every 12 months reviewing those who are already on the list.

Q41 Dr Stoate: What are you doing to ensure that they are qualified as a GP rather than just qualified as a clinician?

Mr Lejk: We do follow-up checks. Not only do we look at what they have presented to us, but if we have any questions about whether their experience in another country is equivalent we will follow that up to make sure that there is an equivalence there.

Q42 Dr Stoate: He was a cosmetic surgeon, how does that make him qualified to be a GP?

Mr Lejk: As I say, under today’s arrangements that would not have happened.

You can read the article in full on the EDP website by clicking on the image below:

12 thoughts on “EDP: New mental health boss appointment branded ‘disastrous’ by campaigners”

  1. Another politician when NSFT needed a leader, a leader who can stand up to the cuts – putting their own professional capital on the line rather than ride the gravy train whilst trousering the silverware.

  2. NSFT has scored an own goal again. It appears that the best person they could find is a man who has ignored public demand for commissioning adequate beds and places of safety for the most vulnerable mentally ill people in Norfolk. It is ridiculous to expect him to now provide services which a few weeks ago he considered not necessary. Who is going to hold the governors of NSFT accountable for upholding public demand and opinion. It is a shame that the majority of the public is unaware of the decisions that are being made in its name.

  3. My guess is he’ll announce he’ll be moving on when the next CQC report comes out.?…..then the Trust will be dissolved and  taken over by private enterprise(s).

  4. They will never learn, the interviews shoul not have been in two halves it should have been done in one sitting with an equal number of service users, carers, mental health expert and board. There was no need for so many people interviewing. It was a farce from beginning to end.

    why are they still paying Michael Scott, he walked after reading the report before it was published.

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