THE chairman of Wye Valley NHS Trust has confirmed this afternoon (Wed) that he is stepping down.

Mark Curtis told the Hereford Times he was leaving after 11 years with the NHS in the county to “pursue business interests.”

Mr Curtis is the third high profile loss to the Trust over the past month, with both chief executive Derek Smith and medical director Dr Peter Wilson confirming that they were going to go in June and May respectively.

Mr Curtis has already signed off the appointment of a new chief executive to the Trust who will start in June.

Mr Curtis joined the Trust’s predecessor as a non-executive director in 2003 and also chaired its audit committee.

Deputy board chairman in 2005, he took the top job two years later as the Trust – together with Herefordshire Council and the then Primary Care Trust -  moved towards integrated care and the creation of  Wye Valley NHS Trust to which he was appointed chairman.

Mr Curtis stands down with the financially troubled Trust forecasting a breakeven position by the end of the current financial year. His successor, however, will inherit significant spending challenges and a forecast deficit of £9m for the 2014-15 financial year.

Mr Curtis said that – for all its well publicised issues – evidence showed the Trust was “heading in the right direction” on a number of key performance indicators.

In stepping down, Mr Curtis cited his appreciation of the support he says he has received has received from staff and “many others” in his time with the Trust.

“It’s been a privilege to work with such a dedicated group of people, without whom none of our achievements would have been possible. I also thank the Board, and especially the Executive Team, for their efforts to transform the organisation over the past two years or so, and their staunch loyalty and support to me,” he said.

The decision to step down, said Mr Curtis, had been driven by “flourishing” business ventures beyond the NHS  that were making increasing demands on his time.

Current Trust chief executive, Derek Smith, said Mr Curtis has “worked tirelessly” to sustain and improve the provision of health services in the county.

His commitment to enabling high quality patient care and keeping essential services here is widely understood and appreciated within the county, while his knowledge and experience will very much be missed,” he said.

The NHS Trust Development Authority appoints Chairs and Non-executive Directors under delegated authority from the Secretary of State for Health and will lead the process to recruit and appoint the next Chairman of the Trust.

In the meantime, Mark Waller, Deputy Chairman, will be the Acting Trust Chairman.

Richard Beeken - currently director of operations and transformation at Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust – will take over as the Trust’s chief executive  in June when Mr Smith steps down.

A new medical director has yet to be appointed.