An east London NHS trust will not investigate how it came to hire the hospital boss who presided over serial killer Lucy Letby’s crime spree, its board has heard.

Board members at Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (BHRUT) were told on Thursday (September 7) that an investigation would be launched into the tenure of Tony Chambers – but not the decision to hire him in the first place.

Mr Chambers was hired as BHRUT’s interim CEO in January 2020, putting him in charge of the King George Hospital in Goodmayes and Romford’s Queen’s Hospital, which has a busy maternity unit.

He had resigned as chief executive of the Countess of Chester NHS Trust in September 2018, two months after Letby was arrested.

Letby was convicted last month of murdering seven babies and attempting to murder another six, after a lengthy trial which heard that bosses failed to halt her killing spree, despite staff raising persistent concerns.

Barking and Dagenham Post: Tony Chambers was hired as interim CEO at BHRUT after resigning as chief executive at the Countess of Chester NHS trust, where he was in charge during Lucy Letby's murder spreeTony Chambers was hired as interim CEO at BHRUT after resigning as chief executive at the Countess of Chester NHS trust, where he was in charge during Lucy Letby's murder spree (Image: BHRUT)

Ex-Labour MP Jacqui Smith, chair of BHRUT’s board, told members that the Letby case was “terrible” and “shocking” and would be the subject of a public inquiry.

“We may be asked to contribute directly to that public inquiry because, flagging a connection to BHRUT, the Countess of Chester CEO at the time, Tony Chambers, of course acted as the interim CEO here at BHRUT between January 2020 and August 2021,” said the former home secretary. 

“Given the seriousness of the events, we will undertake to look at the period of Tony Chambers’s tenure to see whether there are, first, any significant decisions taken regarding quality and safety that we need to look at again, and B, checking our log of whistleblowing cases and other concerns to make sure that they have been appropriately followed up.”

But Ms Smith’s announcement concerned only Mr Chambers’s tenure, not his appointment, which has been the subject of recent media coverage.

The BBC reported on August 30 that after his resignation amid the Letby scandal, Mr Chambers had been “effectively blocked from getting similar jobs in the north-west of England”.

Mr Chambers wrote in a since-deleted blog that he had been “persuaded” to take the job leading BHRUT by his friend Sir David Sloman, NHS England’s regional director for London.

NHS England previously said: “As regional director for London, Sir David Sloman was not aware of the events at the Countess of Chester when Tony Chambers was appointed.”

It added that there was now a national records system, shared by all NHS organisations, and trusts used “increased background checks” when hiring.

This newspaper asked BHRUT whether it was lobbied to recruit Mr Chambers and who sat on the panel which appointed him.

We also asked for a copy of the reference he received from the Countess of Chester Trust.

BHRUT would not answer our questions or supply the document.

We have now demanded a raft of documents from both BHRUT and NHS England under the Freedom of Information Act.

Catch up:

BHRUT: Trust won't answer questions about Lucy Letby boss

Ms Smith told the board that Mr Chambers was hired by BHRUT “following a competitive process.”

She said: “Less than three months after Mr Chambers started at this trust, the pandemic began and as a result much of the usual business of the trust was suspended, and at present we have no evidence of any matters of concern.”

Ms Smith added that the trust "will report back to the board once that process is complete."

A BHRUT spokesperson said of Mr Chambers's recruitment: “Eleven candidates applied and four were shortlisted.

"After one person withdrew, the remaining three were seen by a group of stakeholders (that included non-executive directors and partners from across north east London) and interviewed by a panel that included the then Chair and a representative from NHS England.

“During his interview, Tony Chambers spoke about his time at the Countess of Chester Hospital. The panel’s decision to appoint Mr Chambers was ratified by our trust board via the remuneration committee.”

Mr Chambers has previously said he will co-operate with an inquiry into the Letby case, saying: “I was open and inclusive as I responded to information and guidance.”