Sir David Nicholson quits: NHS chief awarded £1.9m pension pot

Sir David stepped down in wake of Mid Staffs scandal

Embattled NHS boss Sir David Nicholson plans to retire next year, with a pension pot worth almost £1.9 million.

The NHS England chief executive officer, whose basic salary is £211,000, will step down from his role next March.

Campaigners called for the under-fire boss to be sacked after the publication of the Francis report into serious failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.

But instead of getting the axe, Sir David will walk away with a pension pot of at least £1,875,000 when he retires, according to NHS figures published in March last year.

Sir David, who has worked in the health service for 35 years, was in charge of the regional health authority responsible for Mid Staffordshire for a short period while patients were being mistreated.

Julie Bailey, from the campaign group Cure The NHS, said: "It is an obscene amount of money for failure.

"He will be able to enjoy the rest of his life, unlike us - we are left with memories of our loved ones suffering under his watch."

Ms Bailey, who set up the campaign group after her mother Bella died at Stafford Hospital in 2007, was still optimistic about Sir David's departure, adding: "This is the start of the cure for the NHS.

"We can start to look to the future now. He was part of the problem - not part of the solution. We now need a leader who will galvanise and inspire the front line, not bully them."

Despite numerous calls for Sir David to lose his position, he received backing from Prime Minister David Cameron and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt in the wake of the inquiry.

In March, he told MPs he was "absolutely determined" to stay in his job despite admitting failures over the Stafford Hospital scandal.

He was in charge of the regional health authority responsible for the hospital for 10 months between 2005 and 2006 - the height of the failings in care.

But he said the authority had "no idea" about the serious failures at the trust, where as many as 1,200 patients could have died needlessly as a result of maltreatment and neglect.

Patients were left lying in their own urine and excrement for days, forced to drink water from vases or given the wrong medication.

NHS England said Sir David would retire both from his role as chief executive of the organisation and from the health service in March 2014.

In a letter announcing his retirement, Sir David said the NHS can "sometimes fail patients".

He wrote: "Whilst I believe we have made significant progress together under my leadership, recent events continue to show that on occasion the NHS can still sometimes fail patients, their families and carers.

"This continues to be a matter of profound regret to me but please note that on a daily basis I continue, and will always continue, to be inspired and moved by the passion that those who work in the NHS continue to show."

The letter suggests that Sir David planned his departure from the health service more than a month and a half ago.

Although it is dated May 21, one paragraph says: "In getting ourselves ready for the 1st April 2013 we should..." which implies it was drafted before April 1 - the day that the controversial NHS reforms were implemented.

Sir David goes on to say that he has stayed in the role to oversee NHS reforms come into place.

He thanked NHS England's chairman Professor Sir Malcolm Grant for support and understanding "with regard to the complexity of my role".

Prof Grant replied: "Thank you for your letter conveying your intention to retire as CEO of NHS England. I was sorry but not surprised to have it.

"Your career within the NHS over 35 years has been exceptional, and your leadership through the radical changes of the past two years has been fundamental to their success."

Mr Hunt said: "Under Sir David Nicholson's leadership, NHS waiting times have fallen, infection rates reduced, and mixed sex accommodation is at an all-time low.

"His job has often been incredibly complex and very difficult, and yet he has always had a reputation for staying calm, and maintaining a relentless focus on what makes a difference on the NHS front line.

"I am also grateful to him for overseeing the successful setting up of NHS England and giving us an orderly period in which to select his successor."

Asked for Mr Cameron's response to Sir David's retirement and assessment of his record, the Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "He agrees with the Secretary of State for Health."

Mr Cameron's view of Sir David was "unchanged" since the PM responded to the Francis report on Mid-Staffordshire, said the spokesman.

He said he was not aware of ministers discussing the NHS chief's departure with Sir David in advance, adding: "It is his decision to retire."