THE CHIEF executive of Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust has announced he is stepping down.

Stuart Bell will continue to lead the trust, which runs community hospitals and mental health services across the county, until a successor has been appointed and is able to join the trust.

He will retire from the NHS next year after he turns 60.

Mr Bell said: "It has been a great privilege to serve as a chief executive in the NHS, and to work with such wonderful and inspiring colleagues and partners. After 23 years at the helm I have decided that it is time for me to start a new chapter in my life."

Mr Bell joined the NHS in 1982 as a management trainee, after graduating from the Oxford University. He was appointed chief executive of Oxford Health in 2012.

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Prior to that he was chief executive of South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust for more than 13 years.

Mr Bell said he was 'confident in the strength of the board' and senior leadership team at Oxford Health.

He added: "I know that they will make sure of a smooth transition for the trust to my successor."

Mr Bell was awarded a CBE for services to the NHS in 2008 and under his leadership, Oxford Health opened two major new clinical buildings, the Highfield Unit for inpatient adolescent mental health, and the Whiteleaf Centre.

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Most recently the trust has shared plans to develop the Warneford site in Oxford and establish with Oxford University a centre for brain health and medical sciences.

David Walker, chair of Oxford Health, said Mr Bell was a 'dedicated community and mental health professional' adding: "He has had a long and distinguished career and we wish him well as he steps down from full-time management – but hope he will consider putting his knowledge and experience to use in less full-on NHS roles."