The NHS Commissioning Board has given its backing to its chief executive Sir David Nicholson, amid calls for his resignation.

Commissioning board chair Malcolm Grant made a statement in support of Sir David at the board’s meeting in public this morning.

The meeting had been met by protestors from Stafford group Cure the NHS calling for Sir David to resign or be sacked.

In recent weeks the board’s chief executive has come under repeated fire over his role in the care scandal at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust. He has also faced prominent accusations of involvement in a top-down and bullying approach to performance management.

In response, Professor Grant told the meeting: “The wake-up call that the Francis report has given us has drawn attention to numerous failures within the NHS – not just within Mid Staffs, but in a system which has from time to time focused on the wrong things.

“There has been a search, among the people who suffer a sense of dismay and shock from the events which have been disclosed by Francis, for accountability. And particularly a focus on the work of David Nicholson, who for much of that period was a senior executive in strategic health authorities.

“I have been deeply worried by speculation in the media about [Sir David].

“Over recent weeks I have reflected on several occasions with David about what has been said in the press. I have discussed it personally with each of the directors of the commissioning board, and collectively with the non-executives.

“We have come to a clear view that David Nicholson is the chief executive of the board.

“He is the person whose command of the detail of the NHS and [whose] commitment to its future we believe to be fundamental to the success of the Board.

“We look, David, to you to provide us with leadership as we go through this exceptionally challenging set of changes.”

At the same meeting, Sir David admitted he and other NHS leaders had been guilty of “complacency” about services and a “just get it right” approach to performance.

Following a presentation from Robert Francis QC, who led the public inquiry into the Mid Staffordshire scandal, Sir David said he had reflected on what the inquiry’s report meant for him.

He said one thing which concerned him was the “real enemy that we have of complacency - that somehow everything will be alright”.

“At its worst [our] response to criticism of the service [has been], ‘There are lines to take’,” he said. “Actually what you need to do is absorb the criticism, understand it, and do something about it.”

He added that an issue for him “personally” was that he was “very passionate about improving services and ambitious about the NHS”.

“What sometimes that turns into is an intolerance of poor performance, which results in the kind of response of, ‘just get it right’, when actually we need to be much more reflective and think about why people are doing things.”

Another reflection, he said, was that he had assumed the NHS constitution’s points about culture would automatically be “embedded” in practice. He accepted that they had not been.