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NHSE appoints ex-college president to new director role

Published on: 3 Jun 2024

NHS England has appointed a former royal college president as its first-ever medical director for mental health and neurodiversity.

Adrian James, former president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, has been appointed to the new post which is designed to “support the transformation of services for people with mental health needs, autism, a learning disability and those who are neurodiverse”. 

In the job advert, NHS England said their work would include providing clinical leadership on care quality; developing “future strategies beyond the NHS long-term plan”; medical workforce transformation; and engaging other clinicians.

It comes as the five-year funding cycle of the 2019 NHS long-term plan – which substantially increased spending on some mental health services – comes to an end in April this year. There is also rising demand and waits for many mental health and neurodiversity services; and close scrutiny of major failings in inpatient units.

Dr James was president of RCPsych from 2020-23. He is a board member of the NHS Race and Health Observatory and a member of the NHS Assembly. He was previously the medical director of Devon Partnership Trust.

In its announcement today, NHSE said Dr James led the college through the pandemic and oversaw quality improvement initiatives for workforce wellbeing and equality, diversity and inclusion.

He will report to national medical director Sir Steve Powis, along with other national medical directors including Claire Fuller, for primary care, and Aidan Fowler for patient safety.

The overhaul of mental health clinical leadership comes after the previous NHSE national clinical director for mental health, Professor Tim Kendall, stepped down at the end of last year.

The appointment of Kenneth Courtenay, a consultant psychiatrist in learning disability at Barnet Enfield and Haringey Mental Health Trust as the new national clinical director for learning disabilities and autism, was announced earlier this year.

Claire Murdoch, NHSE’s national mental health director, said: “I very much welcome this appointment and look forward to working with Adrian very closely in the future.”

Of Dr James’ appointment, Sir Steve said: “This is the first role of its kind in NHS England and demonstrates our ongoing commitment both to strong clinical leadership in general, and specifically within mental health and neurodiversity.”