The government’s Health Select Committee has endorsed Baroness Harding as the next chair of NHS Improvement (NHSI).
As reported in the National Health Executive Online, the committee looked at the candidate’s plans related to new forms of care delivery and integration of NHSI’s work with other organisations such as NHS England and the CQC.
After an open recruitment campaign, health minister Philip Dunne outlined Baroness Harding as the preferred choice based on her experience as a businessperson and increasing efficiency within an industry.
In response, the committee said: “On the basis of the discussions during the pre-appointment hearing, we are satisfied that Baroness Harding has the professional competence and personal independence required of the chair of NHS Improvement. We are pleased to endorse her appointment and wish her well for her tenure as chair.”
But there were a number of conditions set by the committee on her appointment, including relinquishing the Conservative whip in the House of Lords in order to ensure greater parliamentary and public confidence in policy decisions.
In addition, there was an emphasis on improving Baroness Harding’s knowledge of the sector, both before taking up the role and after commencement, to “gain the widest possible experience of listening to both staff and service users at all levels and in a wide variety of settings on the frontline of NHS service provision.”
NHS Providers chief executive, Chris Hopson, said his organisation welcomed this decision and looked forward to working closely with the new chair should she be confirmed.
“We have been impressed by her understanding of the requirements and subtleties of this role and her willingness to listen to the provider sector,” he added.
“We note that she has set out her determination to challenge the government when necessary, and we expect to see her making a strong case for the NHS.”
The question of how strongly the NHS efficiency regulator should act, both within the sector and towards the government, has repeatedly been in question since the body was formed last year.
There are hopes that the new appointment will drive improvement across the NHS and give the NHSI a firmer footing in the industry.
If confirmed, Baroness Harding will be taking over the role from Ed Smith, who stepped down in March after over a year in the role. The search for a new chief executive to replace Jim Mackey still continues.