RESILIENCE and a passion for the NHS have been vital to Dr Jackie Bene’s staying power at the Royal Bolton Hospital — who this month was finally appointed as the permanent chief executive.

Dr Bene has guided the Bolton NHS Foundation Trust through a turbulent 12 months and says the latest step feels like a natural progression.

The consultant physician said: “It feels very good to finally be chief executive, but in many ways I am carrying on with the job I have been doing for six months.

“I stepped in in June because I felt the trust needed some stability. At the time, I didn’t feel ready for the role, but with the passage of six months I feel it is the job for me.”

Dr Bene proved the popular choice among staff and governors in the run-up to her appointment, with widespread praise for her patient-centred approach to running the hospital.

But there is no doubt it has been a tough year for Dr Bene, who was forced to step aside as acting chief executive in February last year to allow an independent investigation of coding after health research group Dr Foster found “significant discrepancies” in data.

Dr Bene returned as medical director — a position she has held for several years — after interim findings from a second investigation into clinical coding showed there had been no manipulation of data.

So why did she stand by a trust that at one point looked like it might not survive such a controversial year?

“I think I am quite a resilient character,” she said.“You need to have resilience in buckets in this job.

"But I believe strongly in what David Wakefield (trust chairman) has done with Monitor.

"I recognised their concerns and wanted to improve the quality of care and governance. I put a lot of effort into that, but it’s what I want for Bolton, its patients and its staff.

“I could have looked at other jobs elsewhere and it was a difficult period, but I still believe there were people out there who come to work to do a good job. We just didn’t have the best systems in place.

“It’s nice to feel supported now I have been appointed permanently, but I always feel like I have been. I have been here many years and I am very proud of the organisation.”

Dr Bene said the “ambitious” integrated health care system changes, which will see hospital services shifted to the community, will start to come into effect as early as April this year.

She said: “I am looking forward to the exciting prospect of integrated healthcare. It’s an ambitious agenda, but I think we could make a big difference.”