David Nicholson has announced he is to retire next year after spending 35 years working within the NHS. He will retire in March 2014 as Chief Executive of the NHS in England a post has been in since 2006.
Latterly he has been a controversial figure with his proximity to Stafford Hospital leading some MPS and campaigners to call for his resignation following the outcome of a public enquiry.
He had seemed determined to continue in his post, but in his announcement letter he said, "Recent events continue to show that on occasion the NHS can still sometimes fail patients, their families and carers……this continues to be a matter of profound regret to me."
Many paid tribute to Nicholson’s sterling work within the health service including his Chairman and the Health Secretary with his Chairman speaking about an “exceptional” career. It was under Nicholson’s leadership NHS waiting times fell, infection rates fell, and mixed sex accommodation reduced to an all-time low.
There can be few more experienced NHS managers than Nicholson. He held his first Chief Executive post in the 1980s at the Doncaster and Montagu Hospital Trust before moving into regional management in the 1990s eventually becoming head of the Birmingham and Black Country health authority in 2003. It was two years later than he took over two authorities including Stafford that were then merged.
No one can doubt the complexity of working at a high level within the NHS. Particularly under successive governments who have instigated their own programmes of reform. Perhaps Jeremy Hunt put it best when he said that his job had often been very difficult. At the same time he said Nicholson had a reputation for staying calm. Hunt also paid tribute to his relentless focus on what makes a difference on the NHS frontline.
It’s Nicholson’s intention, by giving a long period of notice, to enable a high calibre successor to be recruited whole ensuring stability following changes within the NHS that came into force in April.