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NHSE appoints new chief strategy officer and primary care lead

Published on: 19 May 2022

NHS England has recruited NHS Providers chief Chris Hopson to its board, it has announced.

In another significant move, NHSE’s director for the North West region Amanda Doyle has been appointed as director of primary and community services.

Mr Hopson, who has spent a decade leading the NHS provider lobby group, will join NHSE’s top team as its chief strategy officer.

An announcement sent to staff by NHSE chief executive Amanda Pritchard, seen by HSJ, said: “As chief strategy officer, Chris will draw on his substantial experience of leading strategy and communications in large organisations to oversee our strategy and policy; our communications and stakeholder activity, including our formal sponsorship relationship with government; and our delivery of the NHS’s environmental sustainability commitments.”

Mr Hopson will oversee the strategy team, led by Ben Jupp; the policy group, led by Chris Gormley; the Greener NHS Programme, led by Nick Watts, and the communications team, led by James Lyons, the announcement said. 

On Ms Doyle’s appointment, Ms Pritchard said: “Amanda will continue to be accountable to David Sloman, our chief operating officer, bringing primary and community care into line with other NHS operational delivery areas. She will be responsible for providing overall leadership across three important areas, delivering high-impact transformation and improvements.”

Ms Doyle, who will start her role in June, will oversee the primary care group, led by Ursula Montgomery; the community services and discharge group, led by Matthew Winn, and the personalised care group, led by James Sanderson, the note said.

NHSE’s North East and Yorkshire regional director Richard Barker will take on Ms Doyle’s former North West patch, although the two will continue to operate as separate regions. NHSE has not said whether a separate substantive North West director will be appointed.

The appointments follow long-standing NHSE board member Ian Dodge’s decision to step down, as revealed by HSJ in January.

Mr Dodge is the national director of primary care, community services and strategy. However, NHSE’s leadership have decided to split the portfolio into the two roles being taken up by Mr Hopson and Ms Doyle.

Mr Hopson’s switch from heavyweight provider-side lobbyist to NHSE insider has significant implications for the politics and dynamics of the NHS leadership community and relations between the national and local NHS organisations.

NHS Providers began life as the Foundation Trust Network. But Mr Hopson oversaw its re-branding as NHS Providers, and broadening of its membership to all NHS trusts, in 2014.

The lobby group has grown both in size and influence since then, and much of this has been credited to Mr Hopson, who has built a significant media profile, reputation as one of the NHS’s management community’s best communicators, and has extensive contacts among the NHS and Whitehall leadership communities.

The next NHSP chief executive faces a significant challenge to retain the level of high-end media engagement and background influence Mr Hopson has managed to secure.

The lobby group told HSJ that Saffron Cordery, Mr Hopson’s long-standing deputy chief executive, will take over as interim chief executive whilst the board determines the process for a permanent appointment.

An NHSP statement said: “Over the last ten years Chris, Saffron and the NHS Providers team have created an outstanding membership organisation for NHS foundation trusts and trusts.

“NHS Providers has had every NHS hospital, mental health, community and ambulance service trust in England in voluntary membership for four years in a row. In the latest member survey, 96 per cent of our members were very satisfied or satisfied with NHS Providers’ work.”

NHSP chair Sir Ron Kerr added that Mr Hopson had been “an outstanding leader” but stressed that “one of his important achievements has been to create a robust succession strategy”.

“He and Saffron have led the organisation in partnership over the last few years and, together, they have created a highly effective wider senior leadership, and broader staff, team. We thank Chris for all he has done, wish him well and look forward to working with him in his new role,” Sir Ron said.

The latest recruits join after a period of a significant change for the NHSE top team since Sir Simon Stevens was replaced by Amanda Pritchard last July.

Significant changes on NHSE board following Stevens’ exit

The NHSE board has changed significantly since Sir Simon Stevens stood down in July 2021 and was replaced by Amanda Pritchard.

In December 2021 ministers announced they were appointing long-time banker Richard Meddings, who had been chair of TSB Bank to replace Lord Prior as chair.

HSJ also revealed in December that NHSE was appointing its London regional director Sir David Sloman as its new chief operating officer – the post vacated by Mr Pritchard after she was promoted to the top job.

A string of board level executives were then announced in January 2022, with Mr Dodge, national improvement director Hugh McCaughey and national director for emergency planning and incident response Sir Keith Willett. Chief people officer Prerana Issar is also departing.

Other significant additions include Sir Jim Mackey, who joined as elective recovery chief last year, but remains chief executive of Northumbria Healthcare Foundation Trust.

NHS England’s board line-up as of May 2022.

Executive members:

  • Chief executive Amanda Pritchard
  • Chief operating officer Sir David Sloman
  • National medical director Stephen Powis
  • Chief nursing officer Ruth May
  • Chief financial officer Julian Kelly
  • National director, strategy and innovation Ian Dodge

Non executive members:

  • Chair Richard Meddings
  • Deputy chair Wol Kolade
  • Non-executive director, senior independent director Mike Coupe
  • Non-executive director Lord Ara Darzi of Denham
  • Non-executive director Susan Kilsby
  • Non-executive director Laura Wade-Gery