STRUGGLING Darent Valley Hospital has failed to win a vote of confidence from the Government.

The Department of Health announced on Monday it was one of four hospitals which needs a new management team because it has failed to meet a three-month Government target.

Back in October, the Dartford hospital was branded the worst hospital in the country and given three months to turn itself around.

Shortly afterwards, beleaguered chief executive Anne-Marie Dean resigned and was replaced by Sue Jennings who was taken on a six-month contract.

But the Government has decided the temporary chief executive, who has been running top hospital trust Basildon and Thurrock at the same time, has not made significant improvements in an action plan.

Health chiefs have pointed out for "sustained improvement, Darent Valley Hospital needs a permanent chief executive".

Now the chief executive's job is to be franchised which means the best NHS managers in the country can bid for the role.

Anybody with a proven track record of delivery of management can apply for the job, according to a spokesman for the south east regional office of the NHS.

He said: "We are looking to attract the best hospital managers."

Although Dartford MP Dr Howard Stoate says he has noticed some improvements at the hospital, he admitted it was "not ideal" to have a chief executive who is running two hospitals at the same time.

He said: "Today's news is a cause for concern but the hospital needs to look forward and hopefully we will be able to get a really good management team."

The new chief executive, who will bring with them their own management team, is expected to be chosen by April and will be taken on for three years, with an annual review.

A spokesman for Darent Valley Hospital said: "Over the past few months, interim chief executive Sue Jennings and the management team made significant progress on performance

during what has been a difficult transitional period.

"To sustain the improvement, we recognise a permanent management arrangement is vital for the long-term future of the trust.

"We therefore welcome the opportunity of appointing a new chief executive through the NHS Franchise Plan."