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NHS England appoints first medical director for mental health and neurodiversity

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NHS England has appointed Dr Adrian James to a new role supporting the transformation of services for people with mental health needs, autism, a learning disability and those who are neurodiverse. 

Dr James was President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists from 2020 – 2023 and is currently a board member of the NHS Race and Health Observatory, a member of the NHS Assembly and was the first medical director of Devon Partnership NHS Trust.

During his time as President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Dr James led the college through the Covid-19 pandemic and oversaw quality improvement initiatives for workforce wellbeing and equality, diversity, and inclusion.

During the pandemic, Dr James led the collation of evidence regarding the risks of Covid-19 for those with serious mental illness or a learning disability, leading to these groups being prioritised for a Covid-19 vaccine.

One of Adrian’s main priorities at the college was to put forward the ambition of achieving parity of esteem, to have mental health on an equal footing with physical health.

Professor Stephen Powis, NHS England National Medical Director, said: “This is the first role of its kind in NHS England and demonstrates our ongoing commitment both to strong clinical leadership in general, and specifically within mental health and neurodiversity.

“It is excellent news for people with mental health needs, autism, learning disability and those who are neurodiverse as we continue to transform services and improve outcomes.”

Claire Murdoch, NHS England National Mental Health Director, said: “I was thrilled to join Professor Powis in appointing Adrian, who will be a first-class clinical leader across our important programmes and a really impressive addition to the medical leadership at NHS England.

“I very much welcome this appointment and look forward to working with Adrian very closely together in the future.”

Dr Adrian James, NHS England’s First Medical Director For Mental Health and Neurodiversity, commented:  “I am delighted to be joining the leadership team at NHS England. Much has been achieved in the world of mental health and neurodiversity and I am looking forward to working with the medical directorate, Claire and her team, patients, the public, staff and the vibrant charity sector to further improve outcomes, the experience of care and timely access to services.”

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