Liam O'Toole to step down as chief executive of Versus Arthritis

The charity says his decision is not related to the recent issues there and pays tribute to his work while in post

Liam O'Toole
Liam O'Toole

Liam O’Toole, chief executive of Versus Arthritis, will retire next year after more than a decade in the role.

The charity said the move was unrelated to recent issues at the organisation, which included it filing a serious incident report with the Charity Commission after multiple employee accounts of systemic racism, racially motivated microaggressions and bullying.

O’Toole has three decades’ worth of experience in the sector in health and medical research.

He was chief executive of Arthritis Research UK from 2009 until it merged with Arthritis Care in 2017 to create Versus Arthritis, which he was appointed to lead.

The charity credited him for his innovative approach to service delivery, increased research spending and myth-busting campaigns that increased recognition of the condition and to helped push arthritis up the political agenda.

Rodger McMillan, chair of Versus Arthritis, said O’Toole would be missed by everyone at the charity.

“A forceful advocate for people with arthritis, he has championed their needs in parliament and expanded our services so they will support millions across the UK in the years to come.

“Most importantly, he has been at the forefront ensuring the voices of people with arthritis drive the decisions we make as an organisation; from the research we fund to our services offer.

“Whoever replaces him will come into an organisation with a strong and powerful platform to build from.”

The charity said O’Toole would remain in position until a successor was found.

He said: “Now more than ever 2020 has demonstrated the vital work of charities and the third sector.

“The pandemic has already had a massive impact on people with arthritis, and it’s clear that in the years to follow this charity will be needed more than ever.

“I am immensely proud of all that we have achieved and now is the right time for me to retire. I am confident that my successor, together with the trustees and the leadership team, will ensure that Versus Arthritis becomes a truly diverse, inclusive and vibrant charity that will always be there for the millions of people with arthritis.”

Less than a week after it filed the serious incident report with the Charity Commission last month, the charity was forced to apologise after allegations surfaced on social media that described an independent investigation into those claims as intimidating and "victim-blaming".

A trustee later resigned, saying he was “surprised and disappointed” to read statements made by the charity about his resignation and that he wanted to clarify his reasons for stepping down.

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