Chief Executive of largest integrated community and mental health trust appointed as new NHS England National Mental Health Director

The Chief Executive of Central and North West London NHS FT (CNWL), Claire Murdoch, has been appointed by Simon Stevens as the new NHS National Mental Health Director.

NHS England’s independent Mental Health Taskforce chaired by Paul Farmer of MIND recently published its report setting out a vision and costed improvement plan for mental health over the coming five years.

Claire Murdoch, a registered mental health nurse for 34 years, will play a key role in leading the implementation of the report. Ms Murdoch, CEO and nurse in one of the largest integrated community and mental health trusts in the country, has been an HSJ top 15 Chief Executive for the last two years and has a passion for driving improvements in care and support, and better prevention and self-care.

Her trust provides physical, palliative care, mental health, learning disability, sexual health, prison, dentistry and a range of specialist services to many counties and London boroughs and has doubled in size and diversity since she took over in 2007.

She is also a Director of Imperial Academic Health Science Partnership, a Non-Executive Director at Health Education England NW London and Chair of the Cavendish Square Group (the Ten London Mental Health Service providers).

Her appointment – made following a public job advert and an open competition – follows the earlier appointments by Mr Stevens of Cally Palmer, CEO of the Royal Marsden to become NHS England’s National Cancer Director, and Pauline Philip, CEO of Luton and Dunstable Hospital, to become National Urgent and Emergency Care Director. Like Cally and Pauline, Claire will undertake her new national role on secondment from CNWL where she will remain chief executive.

Simon Stevens, NHS England’s CEO, said: “Having now developed clear and widely supported strategies for improving mental health, cancer, learning disabilities and other key services, in 2016/17 NHS England’s focus is now shifting to their practical implementation and delivery. Claire’s appointment – as one of the most respected and seasoned operational leaders in mental health – creates exactly the right energy and drive to kick start this process.”

Claire Murdoch said: “I have a passion for community and mental health services and the essential partnership working that goes with it, above all alongside those who use services. There’s an important vision set out in the Taskforce report and I look forward to working with Paul Farmer and others on implementation. I have seen great commitment from Simon Stevens for better mental health so this is the right time to work with him and my first class colleagues at NHS England to deliver improvements. I have lived through one revolution in mental health care, when the old asylums closed and have been privileged to be part of many advances since that time. It’s now time to press ahead with the next generation of improvement. I can’t remember a time of either greater challenge or opportunity. This is both a little daunting and very exciting.”

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind and independent chair of the NHS’s mental health taskforce, said: “This is a welcome appointment. This is a critical time for mental health and it is crucial that the taskforce recommendations are implemented quickly, as there is a lot to do across the NHS. Claire is one of the most experienced and respected Chief Executives in mental health and more widely in the NHS and I am looking forward to working with her.”

Professor Sir Simon Wessely, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists said: “We welcome the news that Claire Murdoch is to take up this vital role of ensuring that the goals of the task force become realities. As an experienced and widely respected CEO she knows better than anyone the difficulties of delivering better mental health care.  The Royal College of Psychiatrists will do all it can to help.”


  1. Joanna Dunne CAMHS Commissioning Manager says:

    Fantastic to read that the implementation will be lead by a mental health professional.

    I look forward to reading the updates and information over the next few months, years.

  2. Barbara Chavunduka says:

    Just came across this article whilst going through Twitter and am absolutely impressed by the women who have been appointed to posts that are so vital to improve both mental and physical health. As a mental health nurse and always looking for role models Claire is certainly one who will become mine. I will look forward to following her on Twitter as well as follow her progress and hopefully the difference she makes. It’s so vital that those who shape mental health services has her experience and background. Best wishes to her.

  3. R J C. says:

    Will she use her influence to remove the chief executive and board of Southern Healthcare who have undermined the confidence of the patients and general population of the south. This trust and board do not have the confidence of the population they serve and their continued clinging to power is bringing mental healthcare and the NHS into disrepute.

  4. John Davies says:

    At last; someone whose background is not McKinsey; PWC; DeLoitte; KPMG PWC and others involved in industrial levels of tax avoidance advice. It is a start
    Jolly well done

  5. Marcia Saunders says:

    What a superb appointment. Those of us involved in workforce planning, education and training know well how Claire brings her skills, insight and commitment across boundaries to tackle complex problems and find sustainable solutions. A terrific (and courageous) strategic thinker.

  6. Terence Lewis says:

    This is an excellent appointment which will hearten those of us who have need of MH services.

    The creation of a clinical director for MH, rather than this so important area of care being an addition to long term conditions, sends an important message and can only be for the good.

    Best wishes.