THE CHIEF executive of Swansea Bay University Health Board has announced he is standing down after nearly two-and-a-half years in the job.
Mark Hackett joined the health board in January, 2021, during the first winter of the Covid pandemic, and will leave at the end of August.
He has been credited with helping to drive through what the health board described as a reconfiguration of health services – a core element being a “centres of excellence” model for Morriston Hospital, Singleton Hospital and Neath Port Talbot Hospital.
Under this change, Morriston Hospital is becoming a centre for urgent and emergency care, complex care, specialist care and regional surgery. Singleton Hospital is becoming a centre for planned healthcare, women’s health, cancer care and diagnostic tests. Neath Port Talbot Hospital is becoming a centre for orthopaedic and spinal care, and will also focus on rehabilitation and day surgery, among other things.
Three new operating theatres at Neath Port Talbot Hospital are due to open next month following a £6.1 million investment. Additional theatre capacity at Singleton Hospital is also planned.
Mr Hackett said: “I have enjoyed hugely my time in Swansea Bay, which will always have a special place in my heart. I admire the people, patients and staff I have worked with and their incredible energy, passion and commitment.”
No reason has been given for his forthcoming departure but it is understood that in a message to all staff he explained it was for family reasons.
Mr Hackett brought more than 20 years of experience as an NHS chief executive, as well as experience of leadership roles in the NHS in England and in healthcare consultancy. His remuneration was £228,000 in 2022-23, according to health board accounts.
His chief executive’s reports at health board meetings are lengthy, detailed and at times don’t pull any punches.
Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service last December, Mr Hackett said patients needing orthopaedic surgery, like a hip or knee replacement, would be seen quick under the new centres of excellence model.
“For far too long the health board has not invested enough, resulting in very long waiting lists,” he said.
He said the challenges around discharging patients who were well enough to go home but couldn’t, for reasons including no package of onward care, were complex and frustrating. “I think the public needs to understand it’s not a simple problem – if it was we would have fixed it,” he said.
Mr Hackett said waiting times for cancer patients to receive their first treatment were unacceptable, although there had been some improvements since.
He also urged people to take responsibility for their health and well-being, but stressed he didn’t want to lecture. “All I can do is appeal to common sense and logic,” he said. “For centuries people have taken responsibility. In western society there are ways you can prevent the onset of disease, particularly obesity. These things are in people’s control.”
Responding to his retirement announcement, health board chairwoman Emma Woollett said: “I am so very sad to see Mark go. His energy and enthusiasm combined with his deep knowledge and experience have served our health board well and have resulted in us laying solid foundations for the future.”
The health board’s executive medical director and deputy chief executive, Richard Evans, will take over as acting chief executive after Mr Hackett retires, until a permanent replacement is found.
“Mark’s energy, drive and enthusiasm have been inspirational and his influence has had a hugely positive impact on our health board,” said Dr Evans.
“I will be working with Mark over the coming weeks to ensure a smooth transition, aided by the fact that we have a high performing team of colleagues in place who are committed to the direction and approach Mark has helped us set.”