NIGEL Clifton, chief executive of Doncaster & Bassetlaw Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, has died aged 58.
He was one of the longest-serving chief executives in the NHS and held senior positions in NHS management for 30 years – a remarkable feat given the rapid turnover in the field.
He built an organisation which was consistently among the highest rated in the country and was among the first wave of elite foundation trusts in 2004.
He was highly-regarded as a senior statesman among managers and an ambassador for the NHS by colleagues.
Trust chairman Chris Scholey paid tribute to his achievements in Doncaster where he began work in 1997.
"He continued to achieve much while in post as our chief executive and was highly respected both within the trust and nationally," he said.
"In 2000, he led the merger of hospitals in Doncaster and Mexborough with Bassetlaw Hospital & Community Services NHS Trust and was appointed the first chief executive of the new joint organisation.
"Nigel led the application to become an NHS foundation trust after consistent ratings as a top-performing 'three-star' trust. We were one of the first 10 NHS foundation trusts to be authorised."
Under his leadership, the hospitals became associate teaching hospitals of Sheffield University and an associate college of Sheffield Hallam University.
Bill McCarthy, chief executive of the regional health authority, described him as an "outstanding leader" in the NHS in Yorkshire.
"More than that, Nigel was passionate about the quality of care for patients and was an exceptional colleague to whom many of his peers turned for wise advice and a kindly word. He will be hugely missed by the NHS in our region," he added.
Mr Clifton was born in Glasgow and began his NHS career as a trainee administrator in Scotland before being appointed deputy hospital administrator at the Northern General Hospital in Sheffield.
He returned to Scotland for several years before being appointed hospital general manager at Chesterfield & North Derbyshire Royal Hospital and Community Services in 1983, becoming hospital general manager at the Queen's Medical Centre in Nottingham in 1988.
He was made district general manager at Salisbury Health Authority in 1990 before being made chief executive at North Nottinghamshire Health Authority in 1992.
Following his move to Doncaster, he oversaw the trust's merger with the neighbouring Bassetlaw NHS trust to create a body serving more than 400,000 people.
He was awarded an OBE for services to the NHS in 2007.
Mr Clifton died at Bassetlaw Hospice on Sunday with his family around him following a short illness borne with "his usual humour and determination". He leaves his widow Elizabeth and son Andrew.
A funeral for family and close friends will be held on Monday . A memorial service is planned for later in the year. Donations can be made to Macmillan Cancer Support or Bassetlaw Hospice.