Gill Morgan is to step down as chief executive of the NHS Confederation to become permanent secretary to the Welsh Assembly Government.

The confederation announced today it will be seeking a new chief executive to replace Ms Morgan when she leaves in May. Steve Barnett, director of NHS Employers, will be acting chief executive.

Ms Morgan joined the NHS Confederation as chief executive in 2002. She said: "I will miss the confederation terribly but the opportunity to work in Wales and across the whole public sector is too good to miss.

"I have been proud to lead the confederation and contribute to shaping the direction of policy and the debate about the NHS. I know that I leave a strong team, I am proud of all we have achieved together and wish them the best for the future."

Confederation chairman Bryan Stoten said: "I have worked closely with Gill Morgan over the last four years and I have been amazed by her strategic vision, her ability to bring together people from all parts of the health and social care world and her passionate commitment to improving the experience of all who use the NHS.

"She leaves the confederation having developed it into the respected and independent voice for the organisations that make up the NHS. She has led it in a way which has emphasised the importance of innovative thinking and clarity of direction. I will miss her enormously as will her friends and colleagues in Whitehall , Westminster and throughout the NHS."

See next week's HSJ for further coverage of what Gill Morgan's departure will mean for the NHS Confederation