New NHS clinical leadership to support post-COVID challenges

Leading clinicians from across the health service have been appointed to new national clinical roles to help lead action on post-COVID challenges facing patients and staff.

The five new clinical leads – covering urgent and emergency care, elective care and long COVID – will provide expert advice to the NHS Medical Director, Professor Stephen Powis, and to the programme teams working to support local NHS teams improve services for patients in these areas.

Professor Julian Redhead has been appointed National Clinical Director for Urgent and Emergency Care, and will be responsible for helping the NHS to continue to improve 999, 111, A&E and other urgent care services, at the same time as the service faces record levels of pressure off the back of the pandemic.

Professor Redhead is Medical Director and Consultant for Emergency Medicine at Imperial College Healthcare, and Medical Director for the North West London Integrated Care Partnership.

Joint National Clinical Directors, Stella Vig and Ian Eardley have also been appointed for Elective Care, bringing a combined 60 years of experience to the NHS’s efforts to tackle the COVID backlog for non-urgent treatment.

Miss Stellla Vig, is a Consultant in Vascular and General Surgery and Director of Elective Recovery at Croydon Health Services NHS Trust and has previously chaired the Joint Committee for Core Surgical Training, and is a current member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England Council.

Mr Ian Eardley is a Consultant Urological Surgeon in Leeds, and has held a range of national roles including Vice Chair of the Royal College of Surgeons of England and Chair of the Joint Committee for Core Surgical Training.

The NHS’s first ever national specialty adviser roles for long COVID have also been created to help the NHS meet new demand for ongoing care from people suffering long-term effects from the virus.

Dr Melissa Heightman is a Respiratory Physician and Clinical Lead for the Post-COVID Clinic at University College London Hospitals, and Consultant Lead for the Post-COVID Network in North Central London. Melissa has advised NHS England, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence and the National Institute for Health Research-funded STIMULATE-ICP research programme on care and treatment for patients experiencing long COVID.

She is joined in the role by Dr Graham Burns, Consultant Physician and Lecturer at Royal Victoria Infirmary and Newcastle University, and President of the British Thoracic Society. During the pandemic he set up both a respiratory support unit and a post-COVID assessment clinic, both of which became models replicated by other hospitals and in national NHS guidance.

Dr Burns and Dr Heightman will work alongside Dr Kiren Collison, GP and Chair of the Long COVID Taskforce, which brings together patient representatives, clinicians, researchers, charities and others to advise and support implementation of the NHS Long COVID Plan.

NHS Medical Director, Professor Stephen Powis, said: “The fact that the NHS was able to respond so well to the greatest public health emergency in its history is in large part because of our ability to draw on an unrivalled wealth of clinical experience, expertise and enterprise – right the way from ward to board levels.

“So, as the NHS works hard to tackle the COVID backlog for non-urgent care, safely treat all those needing urgent and emergency care, and address the new challenge of long COVID, I am delighted to welcome five senior clinicians to help lead this vital work.

“All of my new colleagues bring with them a wealth of experience and a strong track record of leading improvements in care and treatment for patients at a national level, and I know they are all eager to build on this in their new roles”.