Retiring NHS boss 'became the story'

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Media captionSir David Nicholson: ''I became the story''

The outgoing boss of the NHS in England has said he had to go after he became the story.

Sir David Nicholson said last month that he would retire in March 2014.

The announcement comes after he was criticised following publication in February of the public inquiry into the scandal at Stafford Hospital.

He told the NHS Confederation conference: "I became the story… being that makes it more difficult to do my job."

Sir David came under fire for his role as the regional health boss for the hospital for some of the time when patient care was neglected.

But Sir David also criticised the government, saying we "wasted two years" talking about reorganisation rather than the "really important changes".

He said crucial decisions had to be made about the future of hospitals and how increasing demand could be met at a time when money was so tight. But after the 2010 election the closure of some hospital services were put on hold.

He said: "The NHS stands at a crossroads. We cannot allow the tyranny of the electoral cycle to stop us making the changes."

During the speech, which lasted just over an hour, the NHS England chief executive also announced the organisation - set up in April to take charge of the day-to-day running of the health service - would be carrying out a strategy review.

Details of this were given to the Health Service Journal in an interview that was published earlier on Thursday.

In the interview he said he wanted to "liberate" the NHS and criticised the way GPs were being "demonised".

Some will perceive that to be a veiled attack on Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

In a recent speech, Mr Hunt said the concept of the family doctor had been lost and that GPs needed to take more responsibility for out-of-hours care as it was one of the major factors in the problems being seen in A&E.

But Sir David told the HSJ that "general practice" was "a cornerstone of the NHS" and internationally admired.

"I am a big fan of general practice and I think the way sometimes it is demonised is very bad, and very bad for patients," he said.

However, he did concede there was still a need for some modernisation in the sector and that the NHS needed to "think very carefully" about out-of-hours care.

The conference has also heard from Mr Hunt.

He said the government was trying to relieve the pressure on the NHS, particularly on A&E units - and repeated his concerns over the "loss" of the concept of "family doctoring".

Mr Hunt said this was something he would be looking to rectify later this year when plans would be announced to give the most vulnerable patients a named health professional to look after them when they are discharged from hospital in an attempt to stop them being readmitted.

He did not address the HSJ interview in his speech, but later he told the BBC that while he understood what Sir David was doing, and that it was right NHS England had independence, ultimately the "buck stops with me".

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