Exclusive: Jim Easton is resigning as the NHS Commissioning Board’s director of transformation, HSJ can reveal.

He is set to become managing director of Care UK, HSJ understands. Mr Easton, as well as his NHSCB post, is also Department of Health national director for improvement and efficiency. He is one of the most senior people in the NHS.

There is expected to be a process of negotiation and discussion on the timing before the move is formally agreed, because it is from the DH to the private sector.

There will be controversy around the move, as Care UK is an independent provider to the NHS.

Mr Easton became national director for improvement and efficiency in 2009, and has led the quality, improvement, productivity and prevention (QIPP) programme. The programme aims to help the NHS make the multi-billion pound efficiency savings required because of increasing demand and frozen funding.

An NHS Commissioning Board spokeswoman said: “We can confirm that Jim Easton has been approached about a job opportunity by an organisation in the independent health sector.

“Because this would be an outside appointment, it is subject to approval in line with the business appointment rules for senior Department of Health staff moving to new roles in the independent sector.

“In Jim’s role at the Department of Health, as National Director for Improvement and Efficiency, the rules apply for a two year period after leaving. Therefore, we cannot say any more before an application to take up an outside appointment has been considered under those rules.”

Easton’s move stokes debate on private sector’s value to NHS