A PERMANENT boss of the Royal Bolton Hospital has finally been appointed — marking the end of the year-long hunt for an “inspirational leader”.

Dr Jackie Bene, who has already guided the hospital through a turbulent 12 months as acting chief of the Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, has been named the chief executive.

Dr Bene, who could earn up to £200,000 a year for the role, said: “I’m delighted to be given this opportunity as I have enormously enjoyed the role as acting chief executive and feel I have much more to offer for patients and for staff.”

The appointment of Dr Bene has been welcomed by health chiefs across Bolton.

David Wakefield, chairman of the trust said: “We have had a rigorous recruitment appointment process in which Jackie shone. During her six months as acting chief executive she demonstrated her leadership qualities and she has delivered tremendous results and improvements in a relatively short time frame.

“I know she has the support and respect of our staff and partners and that she really believes in putting patients at the heart of everything we do.

“She has galvanised the trust behind her and delivered clinical results, which have placed the trust amongst the better performing trusts in the UK. She has led the executive team during a very difficult period and has overseen a financial recovery, in line with the turnaround plan, whilst improving key clinical performance indicators.”

Dr Bene stepped down as acting chief in February to allow an independent investigation of coding after health research group Dr Foster found “significant discrep-ancies” in data.

The consultant physician 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.

She stepped in again as acting chief executive when Kevin McGee turned down the job in July.

Cllr Andy Morgan, who sits on the health scrutiny committee, said: “I think Dr Bene was always the right person for the job and I welcome her appointment. However, I think it is shame it has taken the trust so long to make her permanent.”