NHS source speaks of ‘Outrage and distress’ at Letby boss’ Cornwall role

By Lee Trewhela LDRS Reporter

25th Aug 2023 | Local News

The photo of Tony Chambers RCHT released to the media when his interim appointment was announced. (Image: Supplied by LDRS)
The photo of Tony Chambers RCHT released to the media when his interim appointment was announced. (Image: Supplied by LDRS)

The chief executive who was in post during the Lucy Letby scandal was stopped from running Cornwall's hospitals trust by former staff who were "outraged and distressed" that he had applied, it has been claimed by a senior NHS source.

The Times reported this week that Tony Chambers, who was chief executive of the Countess of Chester hospital trust at the time Letby was murdering babies, was due to be made the permanent boss of the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust until senior staff were alerted to the Letby investigation by someone who worked at the Chester hospital.

Last week Dr Stephen Brearey, Chester neonatal unit's senior paediatrician, claimed that Mr Chambers insisted that consultants who raised concerns about Letby should apologise to her and warned them that a line had been drawn and there would be "consequences" if they crossed it. Dr Brearey also claimed that Mr Chambers had told them he had spent a lot of time with Letby and her father, and had apologised to them. Mr Chambers said his comments to consultants had been taken out of context.

After leaving the Chester trust, Mr Chambers earned £345,000 as interim chief executive of Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals, where he worked between January 2020 and August 2021.

He then moved to Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust (RCHT) where he earned £90,000 for a five-month stint between August 2021 and January last year. A senior NHS source told The Times that Mr Chambers was thought to be the frontrunner to become its permanent boss until the trust was alerted to the Letby scandal by a member of the Countess of Chester's staff, who was "distressed and outraged" that Mr Chambers could lead another trust.

According to The Times' report, Dr Mairi Mclean, chairwoman of RCHT, telephoned an executive in Chester and, following the call, Chambers was not appointed.

We approached RCHT to comment on the report. A Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust spokesperson said: "Tony Chambers was interim chief executive for less than five months between August 2021 to the start of January 2022, whilst we went out to recruitment for a substantive chief executive. This interim appointment followed due process for an executive position and fully considered information available at the time.

"We cannot comment on personal information relating to a recruitment process. Mr Chambers was not appointed to the substantive position."

A spokesperson for Dr Mairi Mclean referred to the above statement.

Last week Mr Chambers said that he was "truly sorry for what all the families have gone through". He added: "As chief executive, my focus was on the safety of the baby unit and the well-being of patients and staff. I was open and inclusive as I responded to information and guidance."

You may also like to read: NHS boss at centre of Lucy Letby controversy ran Cornwall's hospitals


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