BBC Trust Chairman Lord Patten will be standing down with immediate effect on health grounds following major heart surgery.
Lord Patten’s term as BBC Trust Chairman was due to end in April 2015, four years after taking over the post in May 2011. Vice Chairman Diane Coyle will take over as Acting Chairman until a successor is appointed.
Doctors have advised him to reduce the range of roles he undertakes and the BBC is one which takes priority at all times, he says. “I have decided with great regret to step down from much the most demanding of my roles – that of Chairman of the BBC Trust.”
In a statement Lord Patten said: “As is well known, I underwent angioplasty while in Hong Kong and a cardiac ablation procedure some seven years ago; and since then I have been regularly assessed by my cardiologist. Last year, for example, I had both a cardiac scan and a treadmill test. But on 27 April, I experienced serious chest pains and was admitted to Chelsea and Westminster Hospital that night. I was transferred on 28 April to Royal Brompton Hospital where I was successfully treated with a combination of bypass surgery and angioplasty, which had been developed by doctors at the hospital (this is discussed in a footnote below). These procedures have been successful and have ensured no permanent damage to my heart.
“The last few days have reminded me, if reminder were needed, of how fortunate we are in this country to benefit from the National Health Service and the dedication of those who serve in it from around the world. I want to offer my most sincere thanks to all concerned in my treatment at the Accident and Emergency Unit at Chelsea and Westminster and to those world-class staff who conducted the bypass and angioplasty at Royal Brompton Hospital, and to pay tribute to their exceptional skill and the wonderful care they provide.
“On the advice of my doctors, however, and having consulted my family and friends, I have concluded that I cannot continue to work at the same full pace as I have done to date, and that I should reduce the range of roles I undertake. On this basis I have decided with great regret to step down from much the most demanding of my roles – that of Chairman of the BBC Trust. This is a position that requires and has received from me 100 per cent commitment, and has been my priority at all times. It would not be fair to my family to continue as before; and equally it would not be fair to the BBC and those it serves not to be able to give that commitment which the role demands. I have to begin by taking a six week break from any work at all.
“So I am writing today to the Secretary of State to submit my resignation with immediate effect. It falls to the Government to identify a successor. In the meantime, Diane Coyle, as Vice Chairman of the Trust, will serve as Acting Chair as specified in the Charter, and will continue with her colleagues vigorously to pursue the Trust’s agenda to serve the interests of licence fee payers. In doing so, the Trust will enjoy the support and benefit from the skill and experience of Tony Hall, who has made such an outstanding start in his first year as Director-General and who has appointed such an excellent team to help him.
“It has been a privilege to have served as Chairman of the BBC Trust. Like the NHS, the BBC is a huge national asset which is part of the everyday fabric of our lives. It is not perfect – what institution is? It always needs to challenge itself to improve. But it is a precious and wonderful thing, a hugely positive influence which benefits greatly from the creativity and dedication of its staff. I have had no reason to doubt that the leaders of all main political parties support the role it plays at the centre of our public realm. Most important of all, the British public enormously value the strength of its output, its independence and the contribution it makes every day to the quality of our lives.
“When in due course the future of the BBC is subject to further discussion at Charter Review time, I hope to say more on the issue. For the time being, however, I shall be making no further statement whatsoever about the BBC or my period as Chairman of the BBC Trust.”
Lord Patten’s family has requested that their privacy is respected while he recovers.
Following Lord Patten’s announcement, Tony Hall, BBC Director-General, said: “I have enjoyed working with Chris over the last year; he is a staunch believer in the BBC and he has brought his vast experience to the role of Chairman of the BBC Trust. He has steered the BBC through some of its most difficult days. In undertaking this role he brought unrivalled experience, wisdom, and an overwhelming desire to ensure that the BBC remains the best public service broadcaster in the world.”
Sajid Javid MP, Culture Secretary added: “I am very sorry to hear of your health issues and wish you a successful and speedy recovery.
“It is with regret that the Government accepts your resignation. Over the last three years under your Chairmanship you have steered the Trust successfully through some great moments for the BBC including coverage of the Olympics and continuing to deliver high quality original programming that is exported around the world. You have also embraced the challenges that have confronted the BBC, putting in place improvements to governance and building a stronger executive team helping the BBC to move forward with confidence. Throughout you have shown an unfettered personal commitment to securing the best outcome for the public.
“I wish to thank you for all that you have done for the BBC and wish you all the best for the future.”