ROYAL Bournemouth Hospital's chief executive will be stepping down after nearly 20 years.

Tony Spotswood has announced he has not applied for the interim joint chief executive role, which has been created as part of the merger of the Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals and Poole Hospital trusts.

Mr Spotswood, who is the longest-serving CEO of a hospital trust in the UK, will leave his role at the end of the month.

He said he had made the decision after "very careful reflection".

“It has been a privilege to lead our Trust over the last two decades. I am proud of what our staff have achieved and of the care that we provide each and every day to residents across east Dorset and west Hampshire.

"It has been a pleasure to work with so many hard-working, gifted and talented colleagues. I know that working together the teams across The Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals and Poole Hospital are determined to ensure that they will provide outstanding care as our plans to create a new emergency and planned care hospital take shape over the coming months.”

Both hospital trusts are establishing a single joint interim chair and chief executive to help take forward the work to merge the two organisations and create an emergency hospital and a planned care hospital.

A formal appointment process is under way, with an outcome expected to be confirmed mid-December.

David Moss, chair of the RBCH Trust, said: “Tony has achieved so much over his 19 years as chief executive of our Trust. As our services have expanded he has overseen many advances in the health care that we provide.

"His strong leadership has helped improve both the quality and safety of everything we do for our patients and we are proud of all that our staff have achieved during his time in charge; Tony has been an inspirational leader. Our Board of Directors is very grateful for all that Tony has done and we wish him the very best for the future.”