King's College Hospital in London has become the first foundation trust to appoint a chief executive directly from the private sector. Tim Smart, currently chief executive of BT Global Services UK, will take up the post in October.

Mr Smart has worked for BT for nearly 20 years in several leadership roles. Before that he worked for oil company Shell.

For the past five years he has been responsible for all of BT's business with large UK clients, including the NHS, local authorities and banks.

Mr Smart said he would bring a range of skills which included "an obsession with outputs and trying to make sure management systems are as efficient as possible".

One of his main goals at King's would be to focus on "the patient experience", he said.

"Having spent a large part of my life trying to make sure we have delighted customers and opportunities to do repeat business with them, I will want to spend a fair amount of my time on the patient experience, how we're organised around them and how we try to make sure that if they had a choice they would come back to King's."

Mr Smart said the decision to recruit from the private sector showed "the level of ambition for the NHS is high".

King's College Hospital foundation trust is working with King's College London, Guy's and St Thomas' foundation trust and South London and the Maudsley foundation trust on plans to join forces and create an academic health sciences centre.

The organisations have denied speculation of a merger.

Mr Smart said he felt he could bring "a more global and commercial outlook" to the project.

He said he had already met with the other trust chief executives and the dean of the college and felt he could bring "something completely different" to their combined expertise.

NHS chief executive David Nicholson welcomed the appointment: "It is fantastic that we are seeing foundation trusts recruiting from the widest possible pool of talent to fill such leadership roles," he said.

Mr Smart said he was "over the moon" at getting the job.

"This has been a long-term ambition. I have wanted to run a hospital before I was too old for about 10 years."

He will replace Malcolm Lowe-Lauri, who this month started a new job as chief executive of University Hospitals of Leicester trust.

Jacqueline Docherty, director of nursing and operations at King's, will be acting chief executive until Mr Smart joins.

For more analysis, see King's puts smart money on private sector