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NHS Improvement set to merge with NHS England

And ex United Nations human resources boss to be the first NHS chief people officer

Mark Gould

Monday, 04 March 2019

NHS Improvement is set to merge with NHS England with Simon Stevens, NHS England chief executive, taking the helm over both organisations.

It is understood that a new chief operating officer is to be appointed and formally designated as NHS Improvement chief executive.


Other changes include the appointment of Prerana Issar as the first chief people officer for NHS England. The new position is part of the NHS Executive Group and Mr Stevens says Ms Issar will play a leading role in ensuring that NHS in England has enough people, with the right skills and experience to deliver the improvements for patients set out in the Long-Term Plan.

Announcing the appointment Mr Stevens said: “There is now wide recognition that support for our workforce is now one of the top issues facing the NHS – promoting flexibility, wellbeing and career development, and redoubling our efforts to address discrimination, violence, bullying and harassment. Prerana will bring truly global experience and demonstrable passion to this important new role.”

Ms Issar combines senior public service experience with skills from the private sector. She joins from the United Nations, where she was the chief human resources officer for the World Food Programme for four years, after which she took on the role of director for public-private partnerships for the past two years. During her tenure as head of human resources, Prerana led the development of the UN’s first strategic human capital approach, as well as the reform of many key policies.

Commenting on the mergers Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the healthcare sector, said: “We have long advocated the merger of NHS England and NHS Improvement – twin regulators have too often meant dual messages from the centre. This is another important step towards greater consistency.

"The national leadership of the NHS needs to have a clear and single view about the future direction for the service. This has not always been the case, so moving to one integrated team, led by Simon Stevens, has to be the right move.

"At the same time, we must make sure the new combined organisation is an enabling one which understands, empowers and works to support frontline leaders. The NHS Long-Term Plan will be delivered by letting local systems lead not by more centralisation and control.

"Our thanks go to Ian Dalton who has handled a difficult brief and supported our provider trust members during what has been a turbulent period."

And Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said: “If the intention is to bring NHS England and NHS Improvement closer together, it is logical to move to a single senior leadership structure across both organisations, led by a single chief executive.

“Ian Dalton has shown the importance of senior arms-length body leaders understanding the needs of those responsible for frontline service delivery and supporting them to provide outstanding patient care.

“Ian’s work to secure a realistic financial settlement for providers in 2019/20, create a more sustainable financial architecture and develop an implementation framework for the long-term plan have all been good examples of the arms-length body support the frontline needs.

“Provider leaders will want to thank Ian for the excellent work he has done and support he has given. They will also wish him well for the future.”

NHS England says Prerana Issar’s work will be critical to delivering the vision for the next 10 years that has been set out in the NHS Long-Term Plan. To deliver on this vision of 21st century care will not simply require ‘more of the same’ but a fundamental shift in the skill mix, types of roles, culture and ways of working for the workforce.

As chief people officer, Prerana will take over from Julian Hartley and lead the development of the workforce implementation plan which will enable this fundamental shift. To do this, she will work closely with organisations across the NHS, including regional teams, local systems, national bodies and trade unions.

Ms Issar said: “I’m looking forward to working closely with colleagues, staff groups and trades unions to help develop a coherent and forward-thinking approach across the NHS, as well as with local leaders to help secure the workforce they require to meet the specific needs of local people, now and into the future.”

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