Immediate past President appointed first NHS medical director for mental health and neurodiversity

Statement / comment
04 June 2024

NHS England has appointed Dr Adrian James, former President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, as the first ever medical director for mental health and neurodiversity.

Dr James will be responsible for supporting the transformation of services for people with mental health needs, learning disabilities and those who are neurodiverse.

As President, Adrian led the College through the Covid-19 pandemic and campaigned to improve recruitment and retention within the mental health workforce. He was replaced by Dr Lade Smith CBE when he left office in July 2023.

Responding to the announcement, Dr Lade Smith CBE, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said:

“This is the first time we have had a national medical director for mental health and neurodiversity, something our physical health colleagues have had for years. It is a landmark moment in the journey towards achieving parity of esteem between physical and mental health and it’s brilliant to see Adrian take up this richly deserved appointment, I can’t think of anyone better suited for this role.

“There has been an unprecedented increase in demand for mental health care in recent years, particularly from children and young people. The impact on individuals and their families, the health service, and the economy have been enormous. Adrian’s appointment shows that the NHS recognise how important mental healthcare is to the health and wealth of the nation. This is an important opportunity to ensure the lives of those with mental illness and neurodevelopmental conditions are prioritised within the NHS.

“We know all too well the sheer heights of what Adrian can achieve. During his term as President of the College, he promoted the expansion of the mental health workforce, campaigned against institutional racism and raised the profile of climate change and mental health. He did this against the backdrop of a global pandemic from which he ensured the College emerged more resilient than ever.

“I look forward to working with Adrian in his new role alongside Claire Murdoch who continues to do an excellent job leading NHS England’s work in mental healthcare. It is vital that we work together to tackle the challenges facing mental healthcare and enhance the delivery of effective support for patients.” 

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