Tributes paid to departing Royal Stoke boss after 40 years dedicated to NHS

Tributes have been paid to the boss of Royal Stoke University Hospital at her final public meeting before she steps down. Tracy Bullock led University Hospitals of North Midlands (UHNM) NHS Trust through the challenges of the Covid pandemic, as well as overseeing a major turnaround in the organisation's financial position.

But at the start of this year, after four decades of service to the NHS, she announced she would be retiring for health reasons. She will stand down as UHNM's chief executive at the end of this month.

In her final monthly report to the the trust board, which met virtually on Wednesday (June 5) Ms Bullock said: "Very sadly, today is my last board meeting at UHNM and therefore my last board briefing. My last working day is the 28th June and I have had regular contact with my successor, Dr Simon Constable to ensure a thorough handover.

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"I have had a fabulous 40 years in the NHS and am saddened that I am not able to continue further. However, the last five years at UHNM have most certainly been my career highlight.

"Whilst there have been obvious challenges, I can honestly say I have worked with some fantastic people and teams who do fantastic things. I am also very grateful to our board and my executive team for your support and commitment over the last five years and I feel privileged to have been your CEO.

"Whilst the changing of the guard can be unnerving, I am confident that our board has the right skills, knowledge and experience to continue our path of making UHNM a centre of excellence in all we do. UHNM is definitely safe in your hands."

Board chairman David Wakefield highlighted the changes that have taken place since Ms Bullock became UHNM's chief executive in 2019. He said: "The day I first met you I was blown away by your enthusiasm and due diligence.

"You have made huge improvements for our trust. At the time you came in our trust was broken, we were in financial special measures, the CQC (Care Quality Commission) said we required improvement and we had a very disengaged workforce - there was a lack of trust in management.

"I look back at the team we had in 2019 and the team we have now and it's like a football manager rebuilding. You have developed a team and merged skills.

"We had a deficit of £67m, an ongoing dispute with our commissioners and £8m in cash. Since then we have broken even and our cash is 10 times the previous amount now, and you have managed to spend £300m to improve things for patients and staff which is magnificent.

"In the last CQC inspection we improved almost every single score and we are one score away from being good. There was a huge disparity between here and County (Hospital in Stafford) and we had people who wouldn't even go to work in County, but you have changed all of that.

"You have been approachable and won the hearts and minds of all the people here. You have been a real champion for staff wellbeing and a massive champion for patients."

Health campaigner Ian Syme also paid tribute to Ms Bullock during the public question session at the end of the meeting. He said: "Tracy has devoted a huge part of her life to public service.

"I'm sad to see her go and I wish her well in the future. She has been a force for good and she has most certainly strengthened the organisation and other areas of the NHS."

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