NHS England appoints first Medical director for mental health and neurodiversity

Dr Adrian James (pictured) has been appointed by NHS England 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, who takes up the role of NHSE’s first Medical director for  Mental Health and Neurodiversity, was President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists from 2020-2023, and is currently a Board member of the NHS Race and Health Observatory, and 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, he 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 on 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 his main priorities 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.”

Dr James added:  “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 Murdoch 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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