The chief executive of one of the biggest and most prestigious acute trusts in England is to step down, the trust has announced.

The departure of Sir Jonathan Michael as chief executive of Oxford University Hospitals Trust was announced by trust chair Dame Fiona Caldicott at a public board meeting yesterday.

Sir Jonathan, a former doctor and medical director, intends to retire from the NHS “by the middle of next year”, according to a trust statement. The trust is widely expected to have achieved foundation trust by then, and was told in September that NHS Trust Development Authority bosses would be recommending it for approval.

Monitor’s final decision on its bid is set for early next year.

However, despite receiving an overall “good” rating from the Care Quality Commission earlier this year, Oxford University Hospitals does has some persistent operational difficulties. It has persistently missed the four-hour A&E standard over the past two years, while the Oxfordshire health system has the biggest delayed transfers of care problem in the country.

Sir Jonathan told HSJ: ““As next year will mark the 45th anniversary of when I first started as a junior doctor in the NHS, it seemed a reasonable time to step down.”

A trust statement said: “This early notification provides sufficient time to plan and commission a thorough national and international search, through which to identify a successor for Sir Jonathan, whilst also maintaining stability throughout the final stages of the trust’s work towards becoming a foundation trust.

“A recruitment process will begin very soon.”

Dame Fiona said the board was looking for an “exceptional individual” capable of implementing the trust’s strategic ambitions and continuing the success achieved by Sir Jonathan.

Under Sir Jonathan’s leadership, the former Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals Trust took over the neighbouring Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre to form Oxford University Hospitals.

Oxford University Hospitals also became an academic health science centre last year.

The trust is a member of the Shelford Group of leading trusts, and is a major centre of tertiary services. In 2013-14 it turned over £868m, making it the 10th largest provider in the country.

Sir Jonathan joined as chief executive in 2010 after a stint as head of health at BT. He had previously run University Hospitals Birmingham and Guy’s Hospital trusts, and his return to the NHS from the private sector prompted speculation at the time that he could be a future chief executive of the NHS.