Sir David Nicholson announces plan to retire from NHS

NHS England today (Tuesday) announced that Sir David Nicholson has decided to retire from the NHS, and as Chief Executive of NHS England, in March 2014.

Sir David has worked in the NHS for 35 years in over 14 organisations covering all care groups and parts of the NHS.

He was NHS Chief Executive for almost seven years and in October 2011 he agreed to become Chief Executive of the NHS Commissioning Board, now known as NHS England, and also led the NHS during the recent period of transition.

In a letter to Professor Malcolm Grant, chair of NHS England, 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.

“Even in retirement I will always be the staunchest advocate of the NHS. I continue, and will always continue, to be inspired and moved by the passion that those who work in the NHS show. I also want to recognise the contribution of staff in the NHS and their recent efforts working in such a challenging environment have been nothing short of heroic.”

Professor Malcolm 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.

“I should like to express my personal appreciation for all Sir David’s support and guidance to date. And I know that I speak on behalf of the whole Board when I stress how much we welcome Sir David’s commitment to continuing to lead NHS England over the coming year in delivering on our challenging agenda.”

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.”

Read the exchange of letters between Sir David Nicholson and Professor Malcolm Grant (these documents are available via our archived website).