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Exclusive: NHS chief exec David Nicholson to retire next March

  • 28 Comments

Sir David Nicholson will retire in March next year from his post as NHS England chief executive.

NHS England staff have just been informed of the plan, according to information passed to Nursing Times’ sister title Health Service Journal.

A successor will be found over the next 11 months. NHS England was due to publish letters between its chair Professor Malcolm Grant and Sir David imminently.

It follows intense scrutiny of Sir David’s role and leadership following the publication of the Francis report into Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust in February.

Sir David was appointed NHS chief executive in 2007.

In a letter to Professor Grant, Sir David said: “I have only ever had one ambition and that is to improve the quality of care for patients. I still passionately believe in what NHS England intends to do.

“My hope is that by being clear about my intentions now will give the organisation the opportunity to attract candidates of the very highest calibre so they can appoint someone who will be able to see this essential work through to its completion.”

Professor Grant replied: “Sir David’s career within the NHS over 35 years has been exceptional, and his leadership through the radical changes in the NHS of the past two years has been absolutely fundamental to their success.

“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 said: “Under Sir David Nicholson’s leadership, NHS waiting times have fallen, infection rates reduced, and mixed sex accommodation is at 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 frontline.

“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.”

  • 28 Comments

Readers' comments (28)

  • michael stone

    This 'compromise' was widely touted a while ago, when he was being criticised from most sides.

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  • how far is he off retirement age?

    hopefully his role in Mid Staffs an any other involvement of hospitals in his charge is to be fully investigated?

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  • good riddance to bad rubbish

    is he going to face criminal proceedings over mid staffs....he,s a friend of cameron...what do you think!!!

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  • Tinkerbell

    retire, should be sacked, as most of them should be sacked.

    Anonymous | 21-May-2013 6:51 pm

    'good riddance to bad rubbish'

    totally agree. Such a sadness that any good works he may have achieved were swept away by the failure to deal with Mid staffs, especially for the relatives of those who died needlessly from negligence.


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  • Once again, appalling mismanagement and very possibly criminal neglect rewarded with a big fat pension and the complete avoidance of consequences for disasters like mid staffs. The families of those who died must be sick!

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  • Incompetence, a bullying attitude and arrogance combine uniquely in senior NHS "managers". As Nicholson has demonstrated so well this is the way to "success"

    All clinical staff should be united in calling for (demanding) "managers" to be held accountable for the mess they make.

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  • Tinkerbell

    how convenient that nicholson leaves via the backdoor the month before all these reforms kick in big time. This unelected government think we are such fools that we won't make any connection between Lansley, Nicholson et al.

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  • Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “Under Sir David Nicholson’s leadership, NHS waiting times have fallen, infection rates reduced, and mixed sex accommodation is at 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 frontline.
    AND PRESIDED OVER THE MOST HARM CAUSED TO PATIENTS EVER....GOOD JOB HE IS CHUMS WITH ALL THE RIGHT PEOPLE...FAT PENSION....FOR THE MOST INCOMPETENT LEADER EVER

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  • It is not at all surprising. Do you think he will really be retiring? I doubt it. Very soon we will hear that he has been given some fantastic, massively paid job in another sector, (influenced by his Government buddies). He will be leaving the NHS with a golden handshake. Who will take the job on though? No-one with any sense, sadly. It would be so nice to get someone who REALLY cares for standards with a clear knowledge of a modern health and social care service and a realistic vision. Someone who can take charge, not be a political puppet doing what the Government wants but a strong, knowledgable, intelligent, honest, hardworking person who will truly engage with the NHS workers. My bet is that we will get another failed CEO, who can talk the talk and not do or say anything who will just kow-tow to the Government and just spin yarns to the rest of us. Well, fingers crossed for someone decent. We can but hope. Please, please....

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  • Anonymous | 22-May-2013 12:13 pm


    "Who will take the job on though?"

    may I heartily recommend Messrs. Virgin, McDonalds and Starbucks and as possible deputies Messrs EasyJet and Ryanair. All enjoy an excellent CEO reputation and undoubtedly have unblemished CVs to match!

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