Walker on water sought for NHS top job

NHS England boss Sir David Nicholson decided to retire when he 'became the story', he said at a conference yesterday.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 18 Jun 2013

It's often difficult for leaders to know when it's time to hand over the reins to someone new but Nicholson has clearly tired of a combination of being yelled out by a combination of Jeremy Hunt and the Daily Mail on a daily basis and will be hanging up his scrubs. In a speech yesterday Nicholson told the NHS Confederation conference that the decision to step down had been easy: 'I became the story,' he said. 'Being that makes it more difficult to do my job.'

Nicholson had announced last month that he planned to retire in March 2014, prompting much fevered speculation as to who would be his successor to lead the largest employer in Europe.  

At the same conference on Wednesday NHS England chairman Professor Malcolm Grant said the organisation had been so inspired by the Bank of England's decision to appoint former Canadian Bank governor Mark Carney as its new chief that it was prepared to do a worldwide search for its own new leader.

'We are prepared to go to someone outside the NHS,' he said. 'Absolutely we’ll do a global search.' When Nicholson was actually awarded the job there was intense speculation that Tony Blair had tried and failed to persuade Terry Leahy of Tesco to take on one of the toughest jobs in British management. The current wave of bad news coming out of the NHS - Stafford, A&E target failures - combined with the

For those thinking of applying for the job this time round - and those from the private sector can expect vigorous position from health unions -  Grant also gave some insider info on the attributes of the ideal candidate.

'The obvious criteria [we’re looking for] are an ability to walk on water and survive political furores,' he explained. Although given the health service's current and coming troubles, we'd add that an ability to sweet talk the Treasury wouldn't go amiss either.

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