• HEE chief executive Ian Cumming to take on roles at West Midlands Ambulance Service and Keele University
  • Professor Cumming says he has been considering a role in academia for “some time”
  • HEE chair Sir David Behan says search for successor will begin immediately 

Health Education England’s chief executive has announced he is leaving the education and training provider at the end of next March.

Ian Cumming 3X2

Ian Cumming has announced he is leaving HEE next year

Ian Cumming was appointed as the first chief executive of Health Education England when it was created in 2012.

Professor Cumming said he was leaving HEE after eight years to join the West Midlands Ambulance Service University Foundation Trust as chair and take up a professorship of global health workforce and strategy at Keele University.

The organisation has come under fire in recent years, as the NHS has been beset by staff shortages and problems with workforce planning — although some have pointed out HEE could not solve these alone, and that its budget has been repeatedly cut.

HEE’s independence has come under question, with NHS Improvement chair Baroness Dido Harding now leading the development of a major “people plan” workforce strategy, in collaboration with HEE and others.

Professor Cumming said in a statement: “After 38 years in NHS employment, including 25 years as a NHS chief executive and eight years as CEO of HEE, I feel the time is now right for me to pursue new goals.”

Professor Cumming described his decision to leave HEE as a “very hard choice” but said: ”I have been considering a move into academia for some time and the opportunity to remain in the NHS in a non-executive capacity alongside a new and exciting academic role at Keele University, which allows me to pursue my interest in global healthcare, is the perfect opportunity for my next career step.”

HEE chair Sir David Behan said: “I do not underestimate the work involved in creating a new organisation, especially at the same time as the importance of the workforce has risen to the top of the health and care agenda not only in the UK but globally.”

Sir David said work to appoint a successor would begin “immediately”. The body’s last executive board appointment was its chief nurse, Mark Radford, who is deputy chief nursing officer for England.

Anthony Marsh, chief executive of WMAS, said: “Professor Cumming brings a wealth of knowledge of the trust, our region and the broader NHS as well as extensive experience in executive and non-executive roles. We look forward to welcoming him next year.”

The announcement comes as the NHS is finalising its People Plan, which is expected to be published in January and will be the first national health and care workforce strategy for 25 years. HEE published its draft workforce strategy at the end of 2017.


Amended 19 November 10.20am: Mark Radford’s job title has been corrected

Amended 19 November 13.55pm: Typo corrected