In what is described as a “groundbreaking move” for the UK’s National Health Service, the principal of the Faculty of Medicine at Imperial College London has been appointed chief executive and principal of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, the new entity launched yesterday through the integration of Imperial College with the merged Hammersmith Hospitals and St Mary’s Hospital NHS Trusts.

Professor Stephen Smith assumes executive leadership of the integrated NHS trust, which also constitutes the UK’s first Academic Health Science Centre (AHSC), in addition to his existing responsibilities at Imperial College. His dual role is in keeping with the AHSC’s objective of integrating healthcare services with teaching and research “at a level never seen before within the UK”, Imperial said.

The strategy of formally integrating the management structure of hospitals with medical education and research institutes has already been pioneered abroad and “is a proven factor in offering the world’s best healthcare”, the college noted, citing Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, US.

Encompassing five hospitals in total, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust has a staff of 9,700 and an annual turnover of £760 million (€1,089 million). It will offer more than 50 clinical specialities ranging from conception to end-of-life care.

Lord Tugendhat has already been appointed chair of the new trust and a transitional executive management board is in place.