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NHS England hires new chief operating officer

Published on: 3 Dec 2021

NHS England’s London director is set to become its chief operating officer for an interim period after a recruitment process failed to make a substantive appointment, HSJ understands.

Multiple senior sources confirmed that Sir David Sloman is expected to take over the national COO job from Mark Cubbon, who has filled the role on an interim basis since Amanda Pritchard vacated it to become chief executive in August.

NHS England’s London region is expected to be led by a trust chief executive from the capital until Sir David’s return.

A number of senior and experienced managers were interviewed for the role, HSJ understands. It is not known how long Sir David is expected to work in the role, nor when the search for a permanent appointee will be repeated.

Neither NHS England nor NHS England London responded to requests for comment.

Sir David has been London regional director since 2019 and was before that chief executive of the Royal Free London Foundation Trust.

The move means that three of NHSE’s most senior executives — chief executive, medical director and chief operating officer — have recently worked at large London teaching hospitals. Ms Pritchard was previously chief executive of Guy’s and St Thomas’ FT while Sir David and Professor Stephen Powis, who is medical director, were at the Royal Free London for many years.

One senior manager said of Sir David’s interim arrangement that they were “not sure how you can do both roles really. [It] will be hard to hold himself to account.”

The move comes shortly after the appointment of the five new designate integrated care board chief executives in London, and the agreement that all four acute trusts in north west London – which have a combined turnover of nearly £3bn – will share a chair.

The spread of shared chairs across multiple trusts has been a major feature of Sir David’s tenure as London regional director, and at Royal Free he led the development of a “group” model with aspirations to incorporate more hospitals.

Mr Cubbon was chief executive of Portsmouth Hospital Trust before joining NHSE as deputy COO and director for long-term plan delivery in spring this year.