Number 10: 'It was Nicholson's decision to retire'

Asked for David Cameron's response to Sir David Nicholson's retirement and assessment of his record, the Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "He agrees with the Secretary of State for Health."

Mr Cameron's view of Sir David was "unchanged" since the PM responded to the Francis report on Mid-Staffordshire, said the spokesman.

He said he was not aware of ministers discussing the NHS chief's departure with Sir David in advance, adding: "It is his decision to retire."

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NHS boss Nicholson to retire

NHS boss Sir David Nicholson plans to retire in March next year, NHS England said today.