NHS England announced today that Sir David Nicholson has decided to retire from his role in March 2014.
He has been in charge of the NHS for seven years, but in recent months has faced repeated calls to step down over the Stafford Hospital Scandal.
Sir David was head of the local health authority at a time when Mid Staffordshire Hospital in particular had high mortality rates. Those failings led to the Francis Inquiry.
Soon after, he became chief executive of the NHS before taking over the newly formed NHS England.
Campaigners and MPs had called for him to resign after publication of the public inquiry into the failings, which involved the neglect and abuse of vulnerable patients.
In Sir David’s resignation letter he said he has “profound regrets” that the NHS can sometimes fail patients.
He said: “Whilst I believe we have made significant progress together under my leadership, recent events continue to show that on occasion the NHS can still sometimes fail.
“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.”
NHS England’s chairman Professor Malcolm Grant said: “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.”