The CEO who is retiring from West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust this summer says it has been a privilege to lead the organisation since 2019.
Christine Allen, who has also held senior NHS leadership roles as chief operating officer and director of strategy, plans to take a well-earned break, including some overseas travel.
During her leadership, the trust - which runs Watford General, St Albans City and Hemel Hempstead hospitals - has been named as UK Best Employer (Nursing Times); been prioritised as a 'pathfinder’ in the New Hospital Programme; achieved a ‘good’ rating from the Care Quality Commission in the ‘well led’ category; won awards for setting up the UK’s first virtual Covid hospital; opened new clinical units and has installed millions of pounds’ worth of clinical equipment.
Christine said: “I simply could not be prouder of this marvellous team. Despite the huge pressure of the pandemic, staff have continued to innovate and take on new challenges.
“In the last few months alone, we have become a teaching trust, implemented a new electronic patient record and been successful in numerous national awards.
"It has been humbling to work with such talented and dedicated NHS staff and a privilege to have had the responsibility of leading the organisation through some of its most challenging times."
Reflecting on the highs and lows, she added: “There is so much to look back on, from the joy of Gareth Malone leading our homegrown choir on prime-time TV to standing in solidarity with colleagues in a minutes’ silence to honour staff who lost their lives to Covid.”
She said that the 'amazing team spirit' from the workforce which represents more than 80 nationalities had helped the trust cope and that their efforts were also boosted by the local community.
Christine, who will be retiring in June said: “We were overwhelmed by the support which came in the form of donations, messages of encouragement from individuals, groups and our local Chamber of Commerce.
"And of course, we had an incredible partnership with Watford Football Club which was the lift we needed when times were tough.
“Being back in my home town is a very special way to sign off after nearly 40 years in the NHS.
"Making the decision to retire has not been easy but I know that the trust has a bright future, built on firm foundations and driven by staff who are passionate about doing the best for our patients.”
Trust chairman, Phil Townsend, said: “Christine is always quick to praise others but she must take credit herself for leading the trust through three extraordinary years.
"In particular, I would like to pay tribute to the fresh perspective she brought to our redevelopment plans – challenging our thinking and leading discussions around balancing the risk of the options before us.
"As a result, we are more certain than ever about the merit of our proposals.
“Her judgement was also spot on with the implementation of a major new IT system; a decision others may have shied away from.
"And, under her watch, the already strong value we place on looking after our staff, has continued to increase.
“When Christine joined us, we had no idea what the pandemic was going to throw at us. Her experience and her calm and determined leadership style was exactly what we needed.
“Away from the cut and thrust of hospital leadership, Christine has made a significant impact on partnership working at a system-wide level. Her wisdom and compassion will be sorely missed by staff at the trust and by our many partners and stakeholders. We wish her well.”
Plans to conduct a national search to secure a replacement are underway.
Ann Radmore, regional director for the NHS in the East of England, said: “Christine has given unfailing service to the NHS for nearly 40 years. Her leadership at West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust will be very much missed.
"She values her passionate and determined staff who she has developed and supported well, most recently during the pandemic, and she leaves the trust in a good position to step forward and look to the future. I wish her all the best in her well-deserved retirement.”