PROSPECT Hospice has a new chief executive.

Chief operating officer Irene Watkins will take on the top job at the Wroughton-based hospice.

Ms Watkins, who has spent the past 25 years in senior manager jobs in the healthcare sector in Australia and the UK, said she was delighted to have been promoted.

“From my very first days at Prospect Hospice I have been amazed by the dedication, passion and skills of the staff and volunteers at the hospice, and the amazing care that they have provided to local people in Swindon and north east Wiltshire,” said Ms Watkins, who has previously worked at cancer charity Macmillan.

“When the position arose to become the chief executive, I felt that I this would be a wonderful opportunity to build on the future for Prospect Hospice and to ensure that it stays at the very heart of the local community that it serves.”

Tim Willis, chairman of trustees, said: “The board has been highly impressed with how Irene has addressed the challenges faced by the hospice since her arrival. We recognise that this new role builds on her former position and we’re confident that as CEO, Irene will be able to continue leading Prospect Hospice to deliver our mission and vision.”

Ms Watkins is likely to have her work cut out.

Last year, Prospect Hospice was admonished by the Care Quality Commission. A warning notice in March 2018 demanded significant improvements at the hospice. Their probe followed concerns about low staffing numbers, safety incidents, low staff morale and allegations of bullying by senior staff.

A report published in November said problems remained. Inspectors wrote: “We found that the provider had not made improvements to the service at sufficient pace.” Staff grievances were still taking too long to manage, the CQC added.

Former chief executive Angela Jordan resigned in October.

Welcoming Ms Watkins’ appointment, Prospect chairman Tim Willis said: “We are pleased that this appointment is someone known to staff and volunteers, and who has done much to bring people together following the CQC inspections.

“As we plan for an exciting future, Irene’s appointment offers us continuity to focus on bringing about the future that Prospect Hospice deserves.”