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.”