Sir Simon Stevens is to be made a peer after he steps down as chief executive
of NHS England at the end of July, the government has said.
"I want to thank him for his dedicated service throughout – but especially when facing the extraordinary pressures of the past year, and for his huge contribution to our vaccine rollout," he said.
NHS England said Sir Simon notified the organisation’s board on Thursday of his decision to stand down "as planned" at the end of July.
In a separate statement, Number 10 said he was to be made a peer.
"The Queen has been pleased to confer a peerage of the United Kingdom for Life on Sir Simon Stevens, upon him stepping down as chief executive of NHS England," it read.
Sir Simon said in a statement through NHS England that joining the health service in his early twenties was "one of the best decisions I ever made".
He added it lead to the "privilege of leading the NHS through some of the toughest challenges in history" three decades later, referring to the coronavirus crisis.
He continued: "The people of this country have rightly recognised the extraordinary service of NHS staff during this terrible pandemic, as well as the success of our COVID vaccination deployment.
"As the pandemic recedes in this country, the NHS’s track record in advancing medical progress in a way that works for everyone rightly continues to inspire young people to join one of the greatest causes – health and high-quality care for all, now and for future generations."
Health Secretary Matt Hancock was among those who paid tribute to Sir Simon’s work, describing him as a "steadfast and sage leader for our National Health Service", adding that had been "especially true during this most testing period in NHS history".
"His leadership has helped NHS staff to overcome unprecedented adversity and keep services open for millions of patients in the face of this global pandemic".
Mr Hancock said he wanted to thank Sir Simon personally and acknowledged the "formidable contribution" he had made to the NHS over the past seven years.
NHS England chairman Lord Prior said the country owed Sir Simon a "huge debt of gratitude".
Lord Victor Adebowale, chairman of the NHS Confederation, said Sir Simon has "done great things" in his role.
He tweeted: "He did race on his way in as opposed to his way out and got the forward view and a vision for the future and operation vaccine sorted, much to thank him for."
And former health secretary Jeremy Hunt, chairman of the health and social care committee, said he should feel "extremely proud" of his role in the NHS response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sir Simon became the head of NHS England on 1 April 2014, having first joined the health service in 1988 through its graduate management programme.
In a varied career before becoming chief executive, he worked in frontline NHS services and in international health care, in both the public and private sectors, and at 10 Downing Street and the Department of Health.
He was knighted in 2020 for services to health and the NHS.