Amanda Pritchard gets top NHS role

The NHS gets its first ever female boss: Departing chief executive Sir Simon Stevens’ deputy beats Dido Harding to top role

  • NHS chief operating officer Amanda Pritchard will take the top role this week
  • Current boss Sir Simon Stevens is stepping down to join the House of Lords 
  • Boris Johnson is expected to formally announce the appointment this afternoon 

The NHS will get its first ever female boss, with departing chief executive Sir Simon Stevens’ deputy winning the top role.

Amanda Pritchard — currently the health service’s chief operating officer — will take over the reins next week. 

Ms Pritchard, whose father is a bishop, has spent her entire 25-year career in the NHS since graduating from Oxford University. 

In securing the top role, she beat off competition from the former head of No10’s Test and Trace scheme Dido Harding, as well as KPMG partner Mark Britnell.

Former Amazon UK boss Douglas Gurr and Leeds City Council chief executive Tom Riordan were also in the running. 

Sir Simon is stepping down after seven years at the helm, and will become a peer in the House of Lords. 

Amanda Pritchard, left, will be the first women to head the NHS since it was created in 1948. Sir Simon Stevens, right, is stepping down after seven years in the top role to join the House of Lords 

The daughter of a bishop, Amanda Pritchard, grew up in Durham with her parents and sister. 

Before embarking on a 25-year career in the NHS, she attended Durham Johnston Comprehensive School, where she was a member of its debating club. 

Ms Pritchard graduated from the University of Oxford with a degree in modern history, before joining the NHS in 1997 through its graduate management training scheme. 

She joined West Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust in 1997 as a management trainee to an associate doctor.

In 2002 , she became a general manager at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

Ms Pritchard was appointed as the health team leader of the Prime Minister’s delivery unit in 2005 under Tony Blair.

She then returned to Chelsea and Westminster NHS Trust as its chief executive.

In 2017, she told a university magazine: ‘I left university wanting to do something that made a difference and thanks to the people I’ve worked with, learned from and who continue to support me every day, I am in the extraordinarily privileged position to be able to do just that.’

She has three children, the youngest of whom suffered meningococcal septicaemia while he was a baby, but fully recovered.

He was the eighth person to run NHS England since it was created in 1948. 

In his resignation letter, he described being in charge of the NHS through ‘some of the toughest challenges in its history’ as a privilege.

Sir Simon — who has been in charge for seven years — has served through three elections and the Covid pandemic.

According to the NHS England annual report for 2019/20, the chief executive’s salary was between £195,000 and £200,000.

The report stated that Sir Simon had, during that year, voluntarily taken a £20,000 annual pay cut for the sixth year in a row. 

Ms Pritchard, who grew up in Durham, will be taking on the role at a time of crisis for the health service, which is facing record waiting lists and rising Covid hospitalisations.

She has been chief operating officer of NHS England and NHS Improvement since July 2019.

In that role, she has been responsible for overseeing the health service’s performance and implementing improvements. 

She previously studied modern history at the University of Oxford, before joining the NHS in 1997 through a graduate management training scheme.

Her father John Pritchard, a Church of England bishop, also studied at Oxford University.

By 2012, she was serving as chief executive at Guys’ and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, which is one of the largest providers of hospital services in the country, treating 2.4million patients a year with 15,000 member of staff. 

Ms Pritchard will now be in charge of the NHS’s annual budget of almost £150billion and the service’s 1.3million staff. 

Ex-Health Secretary Matt Hancock backed Lady Dido for the role.

But Sajid Javid, who took over from Mr Hancock, ruled out the Tory peer last month. 

Sir James Mackey, chief executive of Northumbria Healthcare Foundation Trust, also did not make it through to the final rounds, according to the Health Service Journal.

The applicants were interviewed by representatives from No10, the Treasury and Cabinet Office, as well as board members from NHS England and its chair Lord David Prior. 

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