Former Blair adviser Simon Stevens to take top NHS job

24 Oct 13
Simon Stevens, a former health policy adviser to Tony Blair, is to replace Sir David Nicholson as chief executive of NHS England.

Stevens, who is currently the executive vice president at US private health firm UnitedHealth Group, will take over when Nicholson retires next April.

He has 26 years’ experience in healthcare management and before joining United in 2009 advised the last Labour government, writing its 2000 NHS Plan. Between 2001 and 2004 he worked directly for Blair.

Announcing Stevens’ appointment, NHS England chair Sir Malcolm Grant said he would be taking on the ‘exceptionally challenging’ role at the time when the health service had to make £20bn worth of efficiency savings by 2015. 

‘He has huge experience, both national and global, and across all sectors, and is admired by healthcare professionals across the world for his commitment to the values of the NHS and to the provision of quality healthcare for all,’ Grant said.

‘He brings a wealth of ideas and unique experience, building on a distinguished career across the NHS, international healthcare and government. I look forward to working closely with him as we lead innovation, change and significant improvement in safety and quality to patients across all areas of the NHS.’

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Stevens had ‘an extraordinary reputation in the UK and abroad as a reformer and an innovator’.

He added: ‘He will make a key contribution to the two biggest challenges facing the NHS right now: how to raise standards of care and also be financially sustainable. His passion for our universal health service free at the point of use goes back many years, but he will add international expertise as we face the challenges ahead.’

Stevens warned that the next five years was going to be extremely challenging for the NHS, but compassionate and high-quality care would be as vital as ever.

‘It will be a privilege to lead NHS England – at a time when the stakes have never been higher – because I believe in the NHS, and because I believe that a broad new partnership of patients, carers, staff and the public can together chart a successful future for our health service.’

Trade union Unison said it hoped Stevens’ appointment was not a sign that the government wanted to import America-type values and payments into the NHS.

Head of health Christina McAnea said it was critical that Stevens respected and shared NHS values of universal healthcare that is free at the point of need.

It was ‘surprising that no one within the NHS has been found to take on this position’, she added.

‘Stevens will have his work cut out for him right from the start. Far from being protected from government cuts, the NHS is being starved of the funds it needs. Thousands of jobs are under threat and accident and emergency departments are creaking under the pressure of cuts, privatisation and upheaval.’

The NHS Confederation backed the appointment. Chief operating officer Matt Tee said it was welcome at what is one of the most challenging times in the history of the NHS. ‘Simon is a highly respected global health leader who has retained close links with the NHS and has NHS values at his core.’


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