THE head of a hospital foundation trust criticised and downgraded by the Care Quality Commission has resigned.

Siobhan McArdle, chief executive officer of the South Tees Hospitals Foundation for the past four years, is said to have told staff in a blistering email she was standing down and protesting that demands for further efficiency savings from the Trust were "too great a challenge".

The trust announced today that Ms McArdle would stand down with effect from September 30. She was initially appointed in April 2015 as director of transformation before being appointed CEO later that year.

The online Health Services Journal, a site for health professionals claimed in an article Ms McAardle told staff in an email the personal cost of being an NHS CEO was too high and "life is just too short".

It said the CEO described the “very challenging financial and regulatory environment” as factors in her decision to leave adding the South Tees local health economy was both “underfunded and unsustainable” and adding: "Although there is always room for improvement in an organisation of its size, South Tees is not an organisation that requires improvement.”

The Care Quality Commission downgraded the trust from good to requires improvement after inspections earlier this year with critical care given the worst possible rating saying “harm occurred” to patients because beds were not available. The trust cares for thousands of patients every day at the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough and Northallerton's Friarage Hospital. The CQC said: “Staff were not reporting staffing shortages and their impact, and infection control breaches were due to the service not being able to isolate patients with an infection.” The regulator said staff felt senior managers “were not visible, contactable or approachable” and that morale was variable.

Chairman of the trust, Alan Downey said: "The board of directors, council of governors and I are sorry that Siobhan has decided to resign as chief executive after serving the trust so well. However, we completely understand that, after more than four years of giving her all to the organisation, she feels now is the right time to move on to new challenges and opportunities.

“We want to thank Siobhan for the tremendous contribution she has made to the trust and wish her every success as she embarks on the next stage in her career.

“We are beginning the process of recruiting a new chief executive and in the meantime will continue to focus on ensuring that the trust is well led and that we support our staff, to enable them to provide seamless continuity of care to our patients.”