NHS England Appoints First Female Chief Executive

Ella Pickover, Aine Fox, & Tim Locke

July 28, 2021

Editor's note, 28 July 2021: This article was updated with new information and comment.

Amanda Pritchard/Getty Images

Amanda Pritchard is to become the new head of the NHS in England.

Ms Pritchard has worked as chief operating officer under outgoing boss Lord Stevens, who finishes his tenure at the end of the week.

She will take over during the third wave of COVID-19 and as the NHS faces an unprecedented backlog of care, with more than 5 million on the waiting list.

Ms Pritchard has held a number of key roles across the health service, including running the Guy's and St Thomas' Trust in London, and as chief executive of NHS Improvement.

As chief operating officer of NHS England she was in charge of the operational performance of the health service as well as implementation of service transformation and improvements in patient care.

She joined the NHS through the graduate management training scheme in 1997.

Ms Pritchard also served as a health team leader in the Cabinet Office's delivery unit.

The role of chief executive in the NHS in England was first created in 1985 and it is the first time that a woman has been given the title.

Ms Pritchard will be in charge of the NHS's annual budget of almost £150 billion and the service's 1.2 million staff.

Tory peer Dido Harding applied for the job, as did KPMG's Mark Britnell.

NHS England announced in April that current chief executive Lord Stevens was to stand down "as planned" at the end of July.

According to the NHS England annual report for 2019/20, the chief executive salary was between £195,000 and £200,000.

The report stated that Lord Stevens had, during that year, voluntarily taken a £20,000 per annum pay cut for the sixth year in a row.
 

'Honoured'

In a statement, Ms Pritchard 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 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 infections.

"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."

Appointment Welcomed

Commenting on the appointment, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA chair of council, said: "We welcome news that Amanda Pritchard has been appointed the head of NHS England and that she is the first woman to lead it. We are pleased that she had been working in the NHS for more than 20 years, gaining valuable experience and a wealth of knowledge and we hope that in her new role she will demonstrate her commitment to our NHS and its values."

He added: "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. Ms Pritchard needs to work to put their trust back in the profession by showing she recognises their plight and to put measures in place to support their wellbeing. It also incredibly important that genuine effort is made to tackle the inequalities present in the health service. We would expect Ms Pritchard to spearhead the necessary changes that are needed to do this and ensure a fairer working environment for all."

The Chief Executive of  NHS Providers, Chris Hopson, said the wider NHS will "strongly welcome" Ms Pritchard's appointment.

"Over the last 2 years, trust leaders have welcomed Amanda's calm, team oriented, and effective national operational leadership of the NHS through one of the most challenging periods in its history," he said.

"She has a deep and strong connection with NHS frontline leaders and staff which will be much needed given the scale of the challenge ahead.

"It is also particularly pleasing to see a female NHS chief executive appointed for the first time in the service's 73-year history."

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, added: "She will hit the ground running when Lord Stevens leaves.

"This role is arguably the most significant across the entire public sector and with a new Secretary of State getting up to speed, this continuity at the top of the NHS will be vital."

This article contains information from PA Media.

Article image credit: Getty Images.

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