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National chief people officer to step down

Published on: 1 Mar 2022

NHS England has announced internally to staff today that its chief people officer Prerana Issar is stepping down. 

In a message sent to people directorate staff this afternoon NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard said Ms Issar decided to step down from her role so “she can take time to recovery fully from covid related illness”.

HSJ understands Ms Issar has been off sick since mid-December, when she caught covid. Deputy chief people officer Em Wilkinson-Brice has been acting up, and will continue to do so until a permanent arrangement is decided, according to Ms Pritchard’s note. 

“Prerana now wishes to take some time out to recover fully from recent and prolonged covid-related illness before looking to new opportunities elsewhere,” Ms Pritchard said. “We understand and respect that decision and wish her well and every success in the future.”

She confirmed Ms Issar would work her notice period to “support us with transitional arrangements”, although she currently remains absent due to sickness.

“Prerana has been an important part of the NHS England and NHS Improvement response to the pandemic and in doing so, has faced one of the most challenging times professionally and personally,” Ms Pritchard said.

On her appointment in April 2019 she was hailed by NHSEI as someone combining ”senior public service experience with strong skills from the private sector”. She was previously director of the United Nations World Food Programme, and before that worked in senior international roles at Unilever.

Her recruitment was welcomed as a senior voice on staff issues, a relatively rare outsider joining the NHS at a very senior level, and a senior executive figure with a minority ethnic background, who would lead on diversity issues as well as other workforce matters.   

Meanwhile, NHS England wrote to staff last month to announce that the workforce and people functions carried out across NHS England and Health Education England – which are due to merge – would be reviewed in coming months, with a review to combining the structures.

It said this work would aim to set out the function and objectives of the new organisation and “help progress our coming together”.

In a message to people directorate staff today Ms Issar said: “Being the very first NHS Chief People Officer, working with you all to create the people directorate and delivering the NHS People Plan have been my proudest achievements.”

“Taking the decision to step down due to ongoing Covid related illness, has been a very hard decision to make but it is the right one, not only for me but for the directorate and for the organisation. I will continue to work on projects until the end of my notice period and will no doubt work with many of you during this time.”

“Serving in the NHS has been a great honour and I will always be an ambassador for the people directorate and the wider NHS. I would like to thank you all for the unfaltering dedication to the directorate and wish you all the very best,” she added.