The chief officer of the NHS bodies serving north-west London is to step down in March to allow a new leader to oversee the “considerable work” ahead.

Mark Easton announced he would leave his role as accountable officer of the north-west London clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) last month.

He led the drive to merge the eight separate bodies in the region into a single unit, which is scheduled to take place in April 2021.

In a letter to his colleagues he noted that his time has been “challenging” for the NHS but praised staff for their “continued hard work and professionalism”.

He previously had to deny that the group would be forced to “ration” services to help cut its significant deficit and that it was focused on reducing “unnecessary waste”.

He said the collaboration had started to address its “financial challenges” by working with partners, including local authorities.

As well as the proposed merger, the CCGs in the region are moving towards a new integrated care system, which will see closer collaboration between various organisations.

Mr Easton explained that the long-term work surrounding these two measures will exceed the commitment he can give to the role.

“These are big and far-reaching changes, which in my view require consistent and committed leadership over the next few years,” he said.

“We have worked together in a challenging period but there has also been much to enjoy about working in north-west London, including working with many excellent and committed staff.”