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NHSE regional director to retire

Published on: 3 Apr 2024

The longest-serving NHS England regional director is retiring after four decades in the health service.

Richard Barker, director for two of NHSE’s seven regions — the North East and Yorkshire, and the North West — will step down at the end of June, the organisation announced today.

He was made RD of NHSE’s north region when the organisation was created in 2012, and is the only one of what was then four NHSE RDs to still be in the role.

When NHSE moved to seven regional teams, shared with NHS Improvement, in 2018, Mr Barker moved to the North East and Yorkshire role. In 2022 he also took over running the North West region.

The NEY and NW regional teams have not merged, however, and NHSE today said it would recruit to them separately and aim to have them filled when Mr Barker retires. The roles will be advertised shortly.

In a note to NHSE staff today, CEO Amanda Pritchard said Mr Barker had “made an outstanding contribution in a career dedicated to public service”.

“He has been a pivotal member of our executive leadership team during a time of great change for the country, the NHS and our organisation,” she said, noting his “enormous contribution during the pandemic”.

Ms Pritchard added: “[Mr Barker] has helped to establish integrated care boards and new ways of working across the region, and played an important leadership role in the early days of building NHS England, when we came together with NHS Improvement and more recently as we have created our new organisation.”

The North East and Yorkshire has developed ICSs covering larger populations and areas than most regions, all led by former trust CEOs; and they have taken on some regional functions more quickly.

Before joining NHSE, Mr Barker held several leadership roles in different NHS organisations in the north of England during his career, which started in 1984 as an information officer for Sunderland Health Authority.

Mr Barker said in his own note to staff on Wednesday: ”It has been a terribly difficult decision for me personally and brings with it some real mixed feelings but having completed over 40 years in the NHS, it feels the right time to hand over the reins…

”I was honoured to be given a CBE for health services to the North, and I am proud that this is where I was able to make my mark, and hopefully a difference to the lives of the patients we serve.”