NHS London’s chairman Sir Richard Sykes has resigned, following health secretary Andrew Lansley’s intervention to “halt” the strategic health authority’s Healthcare for London plan devised by former health minister Lord Ara Darzi.

In his resignation letter to Mr Lansley today Sir Richard writes: “Our visions of healthcare delivery bear so little in common that it would make no sense for me to continue in this role.”

He continues: “Other members of the board of NHS London are also considering their positions, but that is a matter entirely for them.”

He says he had “relished” the task of delivering the London plan and was confident the changes implemented so far would “be seen in time to have made real improvements to the experience of Londoners”.

In his response – also dated today – Mr Lansley says the role of the SHA in reform should be to “set out a range of innovative and challenging solutions for how to improve the quality of care and outcomes for patients” rather than to “dictate the decisions made.”

Click here to read the full text of Mr Lansley’s letter

He continues: “The decisions that patients make through choice, and which GPs make through commissioning, should not be pre-empted from on high.”

But he does appear to suggest there is a role for health managers to set out plans when he says the SHA should “engage patients, GPs as commissioners, and local authorities, more directly in putting plans in place.”

In a statement NHS London said: “Sir Richard joined the health authority in order to oversee a transformation in the quality and safety of healthcare in the capital, as envisaged by Professor Darzi.”

“The Secretary of State has made clear that he wishes the SHA to provide different leadership and direction to the NHS in London and so Sir Richard has decided to step down.”

Mr Lansley’s intention to cancel the London reconfigurations was revealed by HSJ last week and subsequently confirmed by the new health secretary who said: “I am calling a halt to NHS London’s reconfiguration of NHS services.

NHS London chief executive Ruth Carnall said: “It has been a privilege to work for someone with such immense talent and experience. Sir Richard played an important part in building a more integrated NHS in the capital.  These closer relationships will be vital as we work over the next two years to meet the new challenges for the NHS, outlined by the new Secretary of State last week.  It is my intention to work with colleagues and clinicians in the NHS in London to find the best way of responding to this new challenge.”