The government has appointed three senior clinicians to sit on NHS England’s board for three years.
Sir Mark Walport, Baroness Mary Watkins and Professor Sir Simon Wessely will take up the positions on 27 January, having led in the fields of research, nursing and mental health respectively. At present only one of its non-executive directors has a clinical background.
Baroness Watkins has worked in healthcare since the 1970s and is currently emeritus professor of healthcare leadership at Plymouth University, and president of the Florence Nightingale Foundation. She is a crossbench peer.
Professor Sir Simon Wessely has worked in clinical psychiatry for more than three decades and is regius professor of psychiatry at King’s College London, having previously been president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and president of the Royal Society of Medicine. He was commissioned to carry out a review of the Mental Health Act by former prime minister Theresa May, and reported in December 2018.
Sir Mark Walport is distinguished professor of medicine at Imperial College London and was formerly the government’s chief scientific adviser, director of the Wellcome Trust and chief executive of UK Research and Innovation.
They are the first clinicians appointed as non-executives to the board for several years. Most of the current non-executives have business and finance backgrounds, and the only clinician is Sir Munir Pirmohamed, a clinical pharmacologist and geneticist, who was appointed in 2018. Its clinical executive board members are nursing and medical directors Dame Ruth May and Sir Steve Powis.
It comes as NHS England is taking on the functions and staff of Health Education England – which oversees and commissions clinical education and training – and NHS Digital.
NHS England chair Richard Meddings said in a statement that the appointees “bring with them a wealth of experience and talent from across the medical, educational, research and scientific fields”, and added: ”Our new colleagues will play a pivotal role alongside my other non-executive colleagues as we make progress in delivering the key ambitions outlined in the NHS long term plan and continue to transform the NHS for the future.”
NHSE chief executive Amanda Pritchard said: “As we deal with record demand for our services, continue to make progress on recovery following the pandemic, and strive to transform care for the future, I know their extensive clinical knowledge, skills and experience will help us improve services for patients across the country, and I look forward to working with them over the coming months.”