A health campaign group and respected former nurses have denounced the chief executive of the east Kent hospitals trust for refusing to be interviewed by the Canterbury Journal.
For more than three months this organisation has been trying to arrange a sit down interview with Susan Acott, who was interim chief executive before being appointed to the role permanently in March.
It is standard practice for a person in such a senior position within an important public service to allow themselves to be interviewed.
But the trust’s director of communications Natalie Yost claimed the interview was declined because the organisation does not share the values of the Canterbury Journal, a local independent current affairs service which provides news and commentary about local issues.
The Journal had wanted to ask Ms Acott questions about the reorganisation of hospital services across east Kent, the potential for a new hospital in Canterbury, the state of the trust’s finances and the rampant levels of bullying that staff have reported.
It is unprecedented for a person in Ms Acott’s position to refuse such an interview and all a succession of previous chief executives have all been interviewed by the Journal’s senior writer Alex Claridge
Martin Vye, a former city and county councillor and Lord Mayor of Canterbury, is the vice-chairman of Concern for Health in East Kent.
He said: “As a campaigner for much-needed improvement in local hospital care I am deeply disappointed that the new chief executive of the Hospital Trust will not answer questions from the Canterbury Journal.
“The Trust is answerable to us local people, and we have every right to hear honest answers to honest questions about the state of our healthcare.”
Peggy Pryer, a nurse with decades of experience working in east Kent hospitals and campaigning for them, also condemned the trust’s position.
“If the chief executive is refusing to be interviewed I would find it very concerning,” said Mrs Pryer, who also worked for the Royal College of Nurses.
“It’s important for the NHS to engage with the community and it’s hard to see how this would help public confidence.
“However, it may just be that Susan Acott is receiving bad advice from her head office team.”
Retired nurse Jacky Moskovits worked for the trust for almost two decades for before she was sacked for calling Ms Acott’s predecessor Matthew Kershaw a “D***HEAD” on social media.
She said: “It comes as no surprise that the chief executive is refusing to be interviewed. East Kent really is the worst trust anywhere in the country.
“They’re just scared of the scrutiny the Canterbury Journal will put them under. It’s arrogant and pathetic not to be interviewed in this way.”