The NHS Executive has announced the appointment of a deputy for chief executive Sir Alan Langlands. Neil McKay, Trent regional director since 1996, will take up his new post on 17 January.

Mr McKay, who is 47, was chief executive of Northern General Hospital trust, a first-wave trust which more than doubled its turnover while he headed it from 1991 to 1996. Colleagues there described him as a 'hands-on' team player with a 'common touch'.

He joined the NHS as a trainee administrator in 1970, with Newcastle University hospital management committee, becoming the first general manager of Doncaster Royal Infirmary in 1985.

Sir Alan said he was delighted by the appointment of Mr McKay, who had shown in Trent his commitment to improving health, tackling inequalities, and modernising the NHS.

He will be accountable to Sir Alan for implementing policy, delivering government targets and tackling performance variations.