Nicholson announces retirement from NHS

22 May 13
Sir David Nicholson is to retire as chief executive of NHS England next March, it has been announced.

By Richard Johnstone | 22 May 2013

Sir David Nicholson is to retire as chief executive of NHS England next March, it has been announced.

Nicholson, who faced calls for his resignation following the public inquiry into care failures as the Mid Staffordshire hospital trust, said his decision to go early next year would allow time to find a replacement.

Nicholson has been chief executive of the NHS since 2006. He became head of NHS England in April this year, as a host of reforms to the health service were introduced. These included the replacement of primary care trusts with Clinical Commissioning Groups.

Nicholson confirmed his retirement plans in a letter to NHS England chair Professor Malcolm Grant. In this, he wrote that the contribution of staff in the recent ‘challenging environment’ amid health service reforms had ‘been nothing short of heroic’.

In response, Grant said Nicholson’s ‘leadership through the radical changes in the NHS of the past two years has been absolutely fundamental to their success’.

He added: ‘In particular, the establishment, set-up and launch of NHS England has been an immensely difficult task, undertaken by Sir David concurrently with leading the NHS in its former guise. Thanks to Sir David’s leadership we are now in as good a position as we could be to take on the challenges that lie ahead.’

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt added that, under Nicholson's leadership, NHS waiting times had fallen, infection rates reduced, and mixed sex accommodation in hospitals dropped to an all-time low.

‘His job has often been incredibly complex and very difficult, and yet he has always had a reputation for staying calm, and maintaining a relentless focus on what makes a difference on the NHS front line,’ Hunt said.

‘I am also grateful to him for overseeing the successful setting up of NHS England and giving us an orderly period in which to select his successor.’

However, the Unite trade union said Nicholson should have resigned over his role in the care failings at Mid Staffordshire.

Rachael Maskell, the union’s national officer for health, said Nicholson would also be remembered for the so-called ‘Nicholson challenge’, which aims to make £20bn of efficiency savings by 2015. This had ‘brought the NHS to its knees, particularly in accident and emergency services’, Maskell added.


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