JOHN Goulston – Croydon University Hospital's interim chief executive – has been branded a "disgrace" after missing a crucial board meeting to attend a job interview for another hospital several miles away.
Mr Goulston skipped the meeting on November 26, scheduled to discuss the future of finances and key services in Croydon, to attend an interview for chief executive of West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust – just six months after starting work in Croydon.
After his appointment in May last year, Mr Goulston told the Advertiser he was ready to fight for the future of key services in the borough.
His choice to miss the meeting came following a letter, penned by concerned hospital staff the week before, which branded Croydon's A&E "probably one of the worst in the country".
A source said: "It was a significant board meeting discussing Croydon and the crises some services find themselves in. To miss it for a job interview somewhere else is a disgrace.
"Any monthly board meeting on an NHS Trust is a significant event. If a chief executive of a hospital misses a board meeting, that is also a significant event."
Six-figure-salaried Mr Goulston, also director of NHS Innovations London – which turned over £2.4million last year – has also applied for the vacant role of permanent chief executive for Croydon University Hospital after being turned down by West Hertfordshire.
The Advertiser can also reveal that interim chair Mike Bell, who took up the role three weeks ago, is being paid more than double what his predecessors were.
Despite Croydon Health Services – the trust that runs the hospital – struggling to break even for the first time in six years, it will pay Mr Bell this salary throughout his temporary 12-month tenure. Former chairmen Michael Parker and Brian Phillpott received less than £21,000.
Tony Newman, Labour leader of the opposition for Croydon Council, said: "The doubling of this salary at a time when the overwhelming majority of staff, including nurses, are effectively having their pay frozen or cut in real terms is unacceptable.
"For the chairman's salary to more than double, it must be questioned if this will motivate the staff. It doesn't look as if this is the right foot for the chair to be setting off on."
However, a spokesman for NHS Trust Development Authority, who is responsible for the appointment, claimed the increase was necessary.
The spokesman said: "It is important that we attracted someone with the right leadership skills and ability to bring stability to Croydon Health Services and tackle the challenges it faces.
"We've also taken into account this is an interim one-year appointment rather than normal four years for a trust chair."
Regarding Mr Goulston's missing the meeting, a hospital spokesman said: "The trust does not comment on any individual job applications as they are confidential."Following a series of departures, two new Croydon University Hospital hospital board members have been appointed. After Karen Jones stepped down in December, Godfrey Allen and John Thompson have been appointed as non-executive directors. In addition, Mary Clarke CBE will join as an associate non-executive director to mediate between the public and the board. Interim chair Mike Bell said: "These appointments will bring a fresh perspective and a renewed energy to make further real improvements to care in Croydon. "The issues concerning governance at the trust have been well-publicised and the ongoing changes to leadership at the Trust have been disconcerting for many people. "My priority is to bring continuity of leadership so that we can make sustainable and long-term improvements to care for local people." Mr Allen was non-executive for NHS Wandsworth and NHS Richmond, while Mr Thompson was a non-executive for NHS Sutton and Merton and NHS Croydon.