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Another NHSE national director announces departure

Published on: 21 Jan 2022

NHS England’s national director for improvement has announced he is retiring.

Hugh McCaughey has been national director of improvement since April 2019. Prior to that, he was chief executive of Northern Ireland’s South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust for about 10 years.

Mr McCaughey told his team earlier this week that he was retiring, HSJ understands.

It comes at a time of ongoing restructure for NHS England and Improvement.

Their improvement directorate is currently being combined with NHSX’s digital transformation work, under the leadership of Timothy Ferris, who joined as an executive board director last year. Dr Ferris was previously chief executive of the Massachusetts General Physicians Organization, a not for profit healthcare group in the US, as well as an NHS Improvement non-executive director.

It was also announced last year that both NHS Digital and Health Education England would be merged with NHS England, although the timing of these changes is unclear.

The review recommending the NHSD merger, published in November, said NHSE should combine transformation with tech functions and build a “transformation factory” to revolutionise “how it supports innovation in the delivery of care”.

The vision was shaped by Dr Ferris and indicates his plans for the new directorate.

The timing of Mr McCaughey’s departure is yet to be confirmed.

Dr Ferris said in a note to NHSE/I staff on Friday: ”I want to thank Hugh for his incredible commitment and impact during his three years at NHS England and NHS Improvement, and his nearly 40 years of NHS service.

“It has been invaluable for me to be able to draw on Hugh’s vast experience and his passion for health and social care. The work Hugh has been doing with you has directly helped thousands of patients, with nearly 400,000 diagnostic tests carried out by the new Community Diagnostic Centres already…

“In recent months I have greatly enjoyed working with Hugh as we start to build the Transformation Directorate. The personal values that guide his leadership are clear in his commitment to his team and their wellbeing, as well as his advocacy of equality, diversity and inclusion and the way he has made this a key part of his work. His commitment to improving healthcare through supportive methods and innovation will continue to be a durable beacon for all of us.

“While Hugh will not be leaving us immediately, we will miss him greatly. However, I look forward to continuing the hard work with him, Simon Bolton (Interim NHS Digital Chief Executive and Interim NHS England and NHS Improvement Chief Information Officer), Matthew Gould (NHSX Chief Executive), Matt Whitty (Director for Innovation Research and Life Sciences and Chief Executive of the Accelerated Access Collaborative) and Bola Owolabi (Director – Healthcare Inequalities) during this transition period and to having the opportunity to further recognise his many achievements as we approach his departure.”

Dr Owolabi was recently confirmed as the substantive director for healthcare inequalities.

Updated on 21 January at 10.15am with details of the note to staff from Dr Ferris.