Tributes to former hospital boss who made 'significant contribution' in Wigan and further afield
The flag outside Wigan Infirmary will be flying at half-mast as a tribute to Andrew Foster, who was born there and spent 12 years at the helm as chief executive of Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (WWL) until his retirement in 2019.
He died on Monday, leaving his wife Sara, children and grandchildren.
Mr Foster arrived in the NHS in 1991 and had stints at Wrightington and Ormskirk, following a change of career from jobs in property development and confectionary marketing.
The latter role saw him work as a brand manager for Smarties, Jelly Tots and Tutti Fruttis, saying his proudest achievement there was the introduction of the blue Smartie.
He became chairman of WWL in 1996, after MP Ian McCartney labelled it the worst trust in the country, and worked hard to turn it around.
He then went to Whitehall for five years, before the borough called once again in 2007 when the chief executive post at WWL became vacant.
Current chief executive Silas Nichols said: “Andrew was a strong and influential leader at WWL, being chief executive for over 12 years and prior to
this as chairman for five years and during his leadership he was instrumental in the trust gaining foundation trust status.
“Andrew made such a significant contribution, not just to WWL, but to the wider Wigan borough, Greater Manchester and beyond. His principal focus was on quality and staff engagement, with a particular desire to learn from the best hospitals in the world. Under his leadership, WWL developed a significant reputation, winning many national awards including Provider Trust of the Year in 2014.
“Andrew was a great supporter for engaging with staff and created a culture of openness, honesty and transparency at WWL and his legacy lives on at the trust to this day.
“Andrew was also a great advocate of international recruitment and was one of the key instigators in setting up WWL’s Global Training and Education Centre (GTEC) which has contributed to the recruitment of many international doctors and nurses not just for WWL but to support other NHS organisations across the country.
“On behalf of the board of directors, I would like to offer our sincere sympathy and heartfelt condolences to Andrew’s family, friends and work colleagues.”
Medical director and consultant cardiologist Prof Sanjay Arya said: “Andrew will be sadly missed, both as a well-respected and valued work colleague, but also as someone I considered a friend. Andrew was very passionate about patient safety and put it at the forefront of WWL’s agenda, when he was both chairman and CEO of WWL. I will remember him as a strong, fair and compassionate leader and with great fondness.
“My thoughts and profound condolences go to Andrew’s wife Sara and his family at this sad time.”
In his final interview with Wigan Today before leaving WWL, Mr Foster described the NHS as “the most treasured institution in the country” and said the “saddest bit of leaving” was saying goodbye to staff.
He said: “One of the things I really enjoy is just walking round the hospital.
"I’ve made it my habit to just drop in without announcing myself in advance. After all these years I’m not treated with suspicion, as though I’m coming to find fault!
"I know most of the staff at least by sight and a lot by name and I shall miss that. Wigan is a good place and that is because the staff here are so fantastic."
Mr Foster worked with NHS Improvement after leaving Wigan and was a non-executive director of Health Education England.
He became the first chairman of Manx Care, an organisation created to transform the Isle of Man’s health and social care system.
Manx Care’s interim chairman Sarah Pinch and chief executive Teresa Cope said: “Andrew Foster was a consummate chairman, leading the Manx Care board with clarity of thought and compassion for patients and service users. A strong and influential leader, he was a real advocate for engaging with his colleagues in order to create a culture of openness, improvement and transparency. Within Manx Care he has laid firm foundations for high standards of care, transparency and accountability, and it was his vision and determination that led us all on the start of our journey to become the best small island health and social care system in the world. He was dedicated to his role and we are all devastated that we have lost him so quickly and far too soon.”
They said he was “at heart, a family man”, who loved carrying his baby grandchildren on his shoulder and speaking about his family.
They continued: “As a person, he was a truly wonderful and kind man. He was incredibly modest and passionate about his career, and had the somewhat unique experience of having worked for years as a very successful chief executive in the UK NHS, followed by years of experience as a chair. He had such a comprehensive insight into the intricacies of health service leadership, and always empowered and supported his colleagues across all levels of the organisation at every opportunity. He made such an impression on so many people, without ever fully realising the impact that his sound, sage and thoughtful advice had on them.
"Andrew will be sorely missed by many, none more so than his family.
“As a board, we will miss his friendship, his leadership and his unrelenting commitment to improvement within the health and social care system. His legacy will live on through the significant contribution he has made both here on the island and further afield in the UK.”