Heather Henry, named this year as a top inspirational nurse leader by Nursing Times, has become joint chair of the primary care organisation the NHS Alliance.
Ms Henry said she wanted to help “connect” clinicians, especially nurses, in community settings.
“We walk the talk, shaping and sharing real live examples of innovation in communities”
Her appointment represents a change in focus for the traditionally GP-dominated organisation, which wants to become more widely representative of the multi-disciplinary primary care workforce.
Ms Henry is joined as co-chair by Dr Mark Spencer, a GP at Mount View practice in Fleetwood, Lancashire, while the alliance’s new chief executive is housing expert Merron Simpson.
They replace long-serving chair and founder Dr Michael Dixon, a Devon GP who stepped down on 8 December after 18 years, and chief executive Rick Stern.
The alliance said its new leadership team “marks a natural progression” from its “core roots in general practice to a platform that interconnects NHS primary care, and the wider system, with the many determinants and enablers of health creation that lie beyond it”.
A practice nurse by background, Ms Henry is an independent Queen’s Nurse who founded her own company, Brightness Management, with the aim of encouraging social innovation to address health inequalities.
She recently helped set up the alliance’s General Practice Nurse Network to give practice nurses a higher profile and voice.
In October, judges chose her as one on the 2015 Nursing Times Leaders, a list of nurses and midwives viewed as making a difference through their leadership skills.
Speaking on her new role at the NHS Alliance, Ms Henry warned that “yesterday’s thinking won’t meet tomorrow’s challenges”.
She said: “I am hugely excited to be leading New NHS Alliance, supporting primary care as an enabler of change, rather than wholly focusing on what needs to be changed.
“We are a network of clinicians, professionals and organisations who sit inside and outside the NHS,” she said. “We walk the talk, shaping and sharing real live examples of innovation in communities.”
Ms Henry added: “My personal passion is in connecting nurses across the system, especially those working closely with people within their communities. We can effect dramatic change, both to the quality and thinking behind health, and to the NHS balance sheet.”
The alliance was founded as a not-for-profit membership group to bring together NHS commissioners with health professionals. It promotes integration and innovation in primary care.