nhsIt has been said that without Sir David Nicholson at the helm, the government’s NHS reforms would collapse. The Prime Minister (recently by personal texts) and even the shadow health secretary have backed Nicholson against demands for him to resign. However, reports are now circulating that he will indeed step down either later this year or early next.

The government is said to be looking at how Nicholson could announce his retirement early but continue in his posts as NHS chief executive and head of the new NHS Commissioning Board. Nicholson is due to appear before the Public Accounts Committee and some have said it will be a ‘make or break’ performance.

According to the Daily Telegraph, sources have said there isn’t any chance of Nicholson stepping down until the NHS reforms are up and running. But he will have to announce that he is leaving at some specified time.

“Behind the scenes, Sir David is absolutely crucial to the success of the NHS reforms,” a Whitehall source is quoted as saying. “He is the person who has really got a grip on NHS hospitals and who is driving up standards, for example waiting lists. For him to simply resign tomorrow could have disastrous consequences.

“There is obviously an appreciation that the head of the NHS cannot be attacked day in, day out by politicians and the relatives of victims as he simply cannot continue to get on with his job in that environment. He hasn’t done anything wrong but it’s getting to the point politically and morally where someone has to be seen to have taken responsibility for Mid Staffordshire.”

However, another source is quoted as saying that while the best way out of the situation would be for Nicholson to make some sort of announcement, it isn’t clear if he is ready to accept that idea just yet.

And a ‘government source’ was quoted in the paper as saying: “We don’t want to make him a scapegoat, but the NHS is going to need new leadership in due course.”