Ann James, the chief executive of University Hospitals Plymouth (UHP), is stepping down next month, the NHS has announced.

Ms James, who has led UHP (also known as Derriford Hospital) since September 2012, said that it had been “the greatest honour to play a part in the incredible journey of UHP”.

She said: “It has been a heartfelt honour to be part of that and of all my 35 years in the NHS - the time I spent at UHP will undoubtedly be the years I will treasure and remember the most.”

Chair James Brent thanked her for her “commitment, dedication, professionalism and her very values-driven leadership”, citing her “collaborative and personal approach”.

He said: “Under Ann’s leadership UHP has achieved so much – often in difficult circumstances – including her leadership through the difficult pandemic period.”

He underscored her role in the development of the Healthy Lives Partnership with Livewell Southwest as well as “securing in excess of £300m investment” for capital developments, including the new Community Diagnostic Centre and the Urgent and Emergency Care Centre.

In a statement, the NHS also thanked her for her service, saying she had been an “exemplary and incredibly driven public servant” in very challenging circumstances.

Ms James will formally quit her job at the end of March after leading the hospital during months of turmoil.

Derriford has been impacted by a spate of critical incidents caused by staff shortages, excessively high patient numbers and even an IT crash.

According to recent NHS figures, Derriford is one of a number of hospitals in Devon and Cornwall experiencing the longest handover delays in England.

The NHS said the recruitment process to appoint an interim CE and then a permanent successor “will begin shortly”.