Simon Stevens has confirmed a former GP commissioning leader will be NHS England’s permanent national director of primary care.

Nikki Kanani’s substantive appointment comes 13 months after she was hired to the role in an acting capacity. Previously she was deputy medical director at NHSE, and before that was chief clinical officer at Bexley Clinical Commissioning Group.

Mr Stevens made the announcement at the Health and Care Innovation Expo. 

Dr Kanani is the first women to fill the role at NHS England. She became acting director in summer 2018 when the previous national director, Arvind Madan, resigned, having been exposed as the pseudonymous author of controversial comments on Pulse magazine’s website.

Dr Kanani was part of the NHS England team that negotiated a new five-year contract for GPs with the British Medical Association.

She has also fronted NHS England’s high profile drive to get GPs to form primary care networks – groups of GP practices normally covering 30,000-50,000 populations, which have agreed to work together and collectively provide specificied services to their combined populations.

HSJ revealed last month that Dominic Hardy, who is NHSE’s director of primary care and system transformation – a separate role from Dr Kanani’s – will leave this autumn. No replacement or new arrangements have yet been announced.