BBC Trust chairman Patten stands down after heart surgery

LONDON Tue May 6, 2014 12:54pm EDT

LONDON May 6 (Reuters) - Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong, quit as the head of the BBC Trust on Tuesday due to ill health after three turbulent years overseeing Britain's public broadcaster.

Patten, a senior figure in Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party, said he would resign with immediate effect following major heart surgery.

"The BBC is a huge national asset which is part of the everyday fabric of our lives," he said in a statement which also detailed his health issues. "It is not perfect - what institution is? It always needs to challenge itself to improve."

The BBC Trust oversees the publicly-funded state broadcaster, setting the strategy and holding executives to account, and Patten was in charge during some of its lowest periods - including a child sex scandal that rocked the world renowned corporation.

As the broadcaster sought to recover from the revelation that Jimmy Savile, one of its biggest stars of the 1970s and 80s, was a prolific child sex abuser, it aired false child sex abuse allegations against a former politician.

That resulted in the-then Director General George Entwistle resigning just two months into the job. He was replaced by Tony Hall who has pledged to refocus the world's largest state-funded broadcaster on its core values - to inform, educate and entertain.

Patten, who took up the post in May 2011, was due to stand down in April 2015. The government will now choose a successor. (Reporting by Kate Holton; editing by Guy Faulconbridge)