The chief executive of Epsom and St Helier hospitals is to take temporary leave so he can lead the turnaround of a failing NHS trust in Essex.

Epsom and St Helier hospitals trust announced today that its chief executive of three years, Matthew Hopkins, is being seconded to Barking, Havering and Redbridge NHS Trust as its chief executive officer.

He will take up his new position on April 1 and the arrangement will be reviewed in six months’ time.

Epsom and St Helier’s deputy chief executive and director of finance and performance, Chrisha Alagaratnam, will become interim chief executive of the trust and joint medical director Dr Ruth Charlton is to be given the role of interim deputy chief executive.

The trust's chairman said both hospitals will continue to push forward towards achieving Foundation Trust status.

The Care Quality Commission recently informed Barking, Havering and Redbridge that it must resolve issues regarding waiting times in A&E, patient flow and leadership.

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A poster of Matthew Hopkins at the entrance of the children's unit at Epsom Hospital

As a result, the trust was placed into special measures - an action taken when serious failings in the quality of care have been identified which cannot be resolved by those leading and managing the trust without intensive support.

The Chief Inspector of Hospitals recommended that additional support would be needed to address the longstanding issues at the hospital - a challenge that Mr Hopkins will now take on.

Barking, Havering and Redbridge’s current chief executive retires at the end of March.

Mr Hopkins said: "I am incredibly proud of our hospitals and staff.  From the compassionate care we provide to ensuring we see patients in need in a timely manner - the evidence shows that we are a strong organisation and an asset to the NHS.

"Over recent years - as we’ve overcome significant financial and strategic challenges - our strong performance has been recognised by other NHS organisations and we have become a leading example for some other London trusts.

"The team at Epsom and St Helier will continue to provide fantastic care for our local people, with the continuing support and leadership from my executive colleagues."

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Epsom Hospital 

Laurence Newman, Epsom and St Helier trust’s chairman, said Mr Hopkins had overseen "incredible improvements" at Epsom and St Helier hospitals and believes he can do the same in his new role.

He added: "With an established and experienced team of executive and non-executive directors at Epsom and St Helier, we are sure that our patients will be unaffected.

"Chrisha Alagaratnam and Dr Ruth Charlton are both exceptionally talented members of our team, and are the natural choices to act up.

"We are also continuing our work to build a clinically and financially sustainable future, and will push forward for Foundation Trust status."

Ms Alagaratnam added: "I am delighted to accept the role and although Matthew will be greatly missed, I look forward to taking on the challenge.

"We have a lot of work to do over the coming months, including creating a long-term, viable plan for our future and moving closer to achieving foundation trust status. 

"There are a number of challenges ahead, but building on our successes of recent years, I believe we can overcome them.

"I would like to assure our patients and local people that we will keep doing what we do best - and that’s providing great care for every patient, every day."

Mr Hopkins joined Epsom and St Helier trust in January 2011 from the strategic health authority NHS London where he was deputy director of provider development.

Before this, he was chief operating officer at Barts and The London NHS Trust, where he was responsible for the day-to-day running of one of London's largest NHS trusts with 6,300 staff and a budget of £500 million.

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St Helier Hospital

Matthew Hopkins, who trained as a nurse at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge and was a Macmillan nurse for five years, has extensive experience in the NHS having also held senior management positions at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, St Mary's NHS Trust and Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust.

Having worked in the NHS for more than 16 years, Chrisha Alagaratnam joined Epsom and St Helier hospitals from Croydon Health Services NHS Trust, where she was interim director of finance and information as well as director of the foundation trust project in 2010.  During this time, she developed the trust integrated business plan and was involved in the application to achieve Foundation Trust status.

Ms Alagaratnam also gained experience in turnaround and transformation management in Mayday Healthcare NHS Trust and previously worked in senior finance roles within South London and Maudsley NHS Trust.

In her current role, she is the director leading on progressing the organisation towards achieving Foundation Trust status.