Amanda Pritchard confirmed as NHS chief executive at 'pivotal time' for health service

NHS England has confirmed that Amanda Pritchard will take over as its chief executive from 1 August - becoming the first woman in health service history to hold the post.

NHS chief executive confirmed (Photo: SOPA Images/Getty Images)
NHS chief executive confirmed (Photo: SOPA Images/Getty Images)

Ms Pritchard, currently NHS England chief operating officer, has a long health service career behind her - starting as a graduate management trainee in 1997 and moving on to a number of other health service management roles.

The new NHS England chief executive - who will take over from Sir Simon Stevens as he departs the health service to take up a seat in the House of Lords - served as chief executive of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, in London until taking on her current role in 2019, and was previously deputy chief executive at Chelsea and Westminster NHS Foundation Trust.

BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul welcomed the appointment of someone with more than 20 years' experience working in the NHS, urging Ms Pritchard to 'demonstrate her commitment to our NHS and its values' in the role.

NHS staff

He warned that she must demonstrate a willingness to 'stand up to government' and show that she is 'on the side of hard-working healthcare professionals'.

Ms Pritchard, who will take on control of the £130bn annual NHS budget, said: 'I am honoured to lead the NHS, particularly as the first woman chief executive of an organisation whose staff are more than three quarters female.

'I have always been incredibly proud to work in the health service but never more so than over the last 18 months as nurses, doctors, therapists, paramedics, pharmacists, porters, cleaners and other staff have responded so magnificently to the COVID-19 pandemic.

'There are big challenges ahead as NHS staff continue to deal with significant pressures while maintaining the roll-out of the hugely successful NHS vaccination programme and tackle backlogs that have inevitably built up in the face of rising COVID-19 infections.

Pivotal time for NHS

'However the skill, determination and "can do" spirit that NHS staff have shown in the face of the greatest challenge in the health service’s history means we face the future with confidence.'

Dr Nagpaul added: 'Ms Pritchard couldn’t be taking up her role at a more pivotal time for the health service in England; we are far from recovering from the pandemic and at the same time we have millions of people wating to receive treatment - the biggest backlog of care the NHS has ever seen. All against a backdrop of decades of underfunding.

'Her immediate priority must be to address the workforce crisis and understand the enormity of the situation - doctors, utterly exhausted mentally and physically, feel like there’s no end in sight, and we are losing talented and experienced professionals because they feel so undervalued.'

The BMA chair called for urgent action to support NHS staff wellbeing, tackle inequality and apacity pressures.

NHS crisis

He warned: 'Staff feel overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the task ahead, with many saying they feel as though they have no choice but to leave or retire early. Fundamentally, however, it is hurting patients who are being left in limbo not knowing when they can get the treatment they need and deserve.

'We want to be confident that Ms Pritchard is willing to stand up to government when needed, and that she is on the side of hard-working healthcare professionals who have gone unheard and underappreciated for too long.'

Prime minister Boris Johnson said: 'I am delighted Amanda has been appointed the new NHS chief executive, the first woman in the history of the health service to hold this post. This is a critical moment for the NHS as it continues to care for COVID-19 patients while tackling treatment backlogs caused by the pandemic.

'Amanda’s experience and expertise mean she is perfectly placed to address these issues and more, and I look forward to working closely with her.

'I want to again thank Lord Stevens for his dedicated service and leadership for the past seven years – especially when facing the extraordinary pressures of the pandemic, and for his huge contribution to our vaccine rollout.'

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