THE man chosen to lead Hinchingbrooke towards its ambition to be one of the top 10 hospitals in the country is expected to start work in Huntingdon in mid-March.

Circle, the company franchised to manage the hospital for the next 10 years, has recruited Jim O'Connell as chief executive, to build on his 20 years' NHS experience.

More than 60 staff, patients, local politicians and volunteers were involved in the recruitment process used by the employee-owned company.

Mr O'Connell, who is currently interim chief operating officer at Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust, is a former national director of leadership at the Department of Health and was regional director of workforce and organisational development at NHS South Central Strategic Health Authority

He has also provided executive level leadership as interim chief operating officer at Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust and University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust before stepping in at Salisbury.

Circle chief executive Ali Parsa said: "Hinchingbrooke healthcare professionals and clinicians are united around the single objective of becoming one of the top 10 district general hospitals in the country for patient safety, patient experience, staff engagement and value for money.

"Jim has the passion, drive and talent to lead Hinchingbrooke in this ambitious task. "Under Circle's co-operative model, Jim's primary job will be to empower the front line to design and deliver services as they judge best for the patients they know best."

Mr O'Connell added: "Joining the Hinchingbrooke team at the start of this historic transformation programme is a unique and exciting opportunity for me.

"Much of my career to date has been devoted to developing strong teamwork, so I'm completely sold on Circle's belief in driving excellence through employee ownership.

"The task of turning a hospital into one of the top 10 in the country is enormous, but the plan that the staff and Circle have drawn up to achieve this is truly groundbreaking. I can't wait to get started."