Adrian Fawcett has suddenly stepped down from his role as chief executive of General Healthcare Group, the UK’s biggest private healthcare provider.

The news comes just days after Mr Fawcett used an HSJ interview to take a bullish view of the private sector opportunities on offer from the government’s NHS reform plans.

He had insisted it would be “madness” not to let private and NHS providers compete on price in the post-reform world, and discounted the idea that the NHS alone would be able to meet the rising demand for healthcare over the next decade.

He told HSJ: “At a macro level, I’m more excited than ever about what the healthcare marketplace and healthcare reforms mean for the future.”

Last Wednesday the group announced that Mr Fawcett had left the company and been replaced by former strategy director and general counsel Stephen Collier. A spokesman said it was a “mutually agreed decision after discussion between Adrian and the board”.

Speaking to HSJ after his departure, Mr Fawcett said he had felt it was a good time to step down and pursue new opportunities.

“I was, and remain, the largest individual shareholder in the company,” he said. “I am very excited about the sector’s opportunities, and I’m very excited about GHG’s opportunities.

“I wouldn’t be leaving unless I was confident I had put it on a good trajectory for the next few years – otherwise I would [stay] and look after my investment directly.”

He said the company strategy was “clearly set” and was not going to change: “You won’t get a cigarette paper between what [Mr Collier] is saying and what I’ve said.”

A short statement released by the firm, which runs hospitals under the BMI Healthcare brand, said: “Stephen has a wealth of experience of working with the NHS which, will be especially relevant as the proposed reforms evolve.

“The board would like to thank Adrian Fawcett for his leadership over the last four years and the significant growth of the company during a challenging time.”