CHAIR of Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, Colin Drummond OBE DL, has announced that he intends to retire within the next year.

Mr Drummond has been the chair of Somerset FT and its predecessors since 2014.

He has overseen the mergers of the three separate NHS foundation trusts which previously existed in Somerset, to create a single organisation, unique in England, which provides acute, community, mental health and learning disability services throughout the county.

It also runs a quarter of the GP practices in the county through its wholly owned subsidiary Symphony Healthcare Services.

Kate Fallon, senior independent director and non-executive director of Somerset FT, said: “Colin has worked tirelessly with the Trust Board and Council of Governors to create our unique trust because of the opportunity it provided to integrate care where appropriate, improve resilience and provide equity of access to services across the county, and support people in Somerset to improve their health.

“We are seeing many examples of this. Two cases in point are the development of Open Mental Health, an alliance between the NHS, local authority, and third-sector organisations in Somerset that have come together to provide 24/7 support to adults in our county, and the development of our county-wide postmenopausal bleeding service.

“Before the development of the latter, patients would attend three appointments taking 63 days on average.

“Now, under the new service, patients only attend one appointment, on average taking four days from self-referral.

“The shape of our trust was based on what an integrated trust can achieve for patients and colleagues, and Colin’s wise stewardship has enabled this to happen.”

Mr Drummond said: “Many of us have personal experience of needing a combination of care at an acute hospital, mental health services and support from community-based services and primary care.

“Our aim is to integrate our care and processes to provide the best outcomes for our patients and their families and carers and minimise frustrating handovers between separate organisations.”

During Mr Drummond’s time as chair, the trust has secured major investment in a range of transformative infrastructure.

This includes the Taunton and Yeovil Diagnostic Centres; an £80m surgical centre that is under construction at Musgrove Park Hospital; an £18 million investment in infrastructure at Yeovil District Hospital to help us reduce waiting times for patients through the provision of a 20-bed ward, a fifth operating theatre and a stand-alone day surgery theatre; and government commitment for investment to transform women’s and children’s facilities as part of the national New Hospitals Programme.

Peter Lewis, chief executive of Somerset NHS Foundation Trust: said: “As well as having an organisational form that enables us to innovate, improve care for patients, and support colleagues, it is also important for us to be able to transform our physical facilities and our digital capability so that new ways of working are possible.

“It is particularly pleasing to see what our colleagues can do when they are given the environment and permission to truly integrate care, across the traditional sector boundaries, to meet the needs of our patients and the population.

“Colin has been instrumental in driving this change and his contribution to healthcare in Somerset will therefore be felt for many years to come”.

Mr Drummond added: ‘It has been a privilege and a joy to serve the NHS and the people of Somerset.

“I have consistently been amazed and inspired by the commitment, compassion, and inventiveness of my colleagues as we seek to deliver what is best for patients in the face of very varied and often most challenging circumstances over the past ten years.

“I am not getting any younger and now is the right time for the trust to start looking for a successor as we continue to strive to do the best for our patients.”

Kate Butler, lead governor, said: “We would like to thank Colin for his leadership and all he has achieved over the past 10 years.

“He has encouraged an open and inclusive culture which has enabled the Council of Governors to flourish and ensure their statutory duties have been fulfilled during a time of merger and transition.

“We are commencing the search for a new chair for what is a unique NHS organisation in England – it will be a difficult act to follow.”