Ex-adviser Stevens named NHS chief
Thursday 24th October 2013, 12:12AM BST.
A former Labour health adviser is to lead the NHS, it has been announced.
Simon Stevens will take on the role of chief executive of NHS England in April next year when the current head, Sir David Nicholson, retires.
Mr Stevens, who was widely regarded as Prime Minister David Cameron’s preferred candidate, was an adviser to Alan Milburn when he was health secretary and then Tony Blair as prime minister.
He is currently president of global health and group executive vice-president at UnitedHealth, the US private healthcare firm.
Previously he was chief executive of UnitedHealth’s Medicare company and has worked across the NHS running hospitals, health authorities and community services.
Mr Stevens will be paid the same as Sir David – £211,000 per year – but has offered to take a 10% pay cut in the first year due to “NHS spending pressures”, NHS England said.
He will draw a salary of £189,900 in the first year.
Mr Stevens said: “The next five years are going to be extremely challenging for the NHS, but compassionate, high-quality care for all is 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.”
NHS England chairman Professor Sir Malcolm Grant said: “I am delighted that Simon will be taking on this exceptionally challenging leadership role for the NHS.”
He added: “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.
“We have been through a rigorous global search, and engaged with a range of excellent candidates.
“I am confident that Simon Stevens is the right person to lead NHS England through the coming years, bringing new ideas and fresh energy.”
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “Simon has an extraordinary reputation in the UK and abroad as a reformer and an innovator, and we are lucky to have someone of his calibre doing such a vital role.
“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.”
Dean Royles, Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation and of NHS Employers, said: “This is a significant appointment at the most crucial of times for the NHS.
“There is an urgent need for consensus about the future challenges facing the NHS, if we are to be able to effectively put in place the actions needed to provide solutions. We welcome Simon to his new post as chief executive of NHS England and look towards an early meeting to discuss the challenge we face and how we can help with the task ahead.”
Trade union Unison’s head of health Christina McAnea told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme she was “surprised” that no one within the NHS had been found to take the role.
She added that she was “somewhat concerned that this may send out a message … is this the Tory and Lib Dem Government hoping to import America-type values into the NHS, a sort of insurance-type system?”
“We sincerely hope it’s not and there will be a massive opposition if that is what the intention is,” she said.
“But I’m hoping they are bringing him in and that he will come with the values of the NHS, free at the point of need and that it’s universal healthcare. I hope that he is not being brought in surreptitiously to try and look at, if you like, what they would consider more interesting ways of developing healthcare through an insurance model.”
Sir Malcolm told Today Mr Stevens believed the NHS was “living on borrowed time” and needed to be “more experimental”.
He said: “Discussions about the role of the private sector tend to start around the idea of who provides the service, as opposed to who it’s for.
“Our commitment in NHS England is this is about patients. If a monopoly system provides the best service for patients, so be it.
“If, however, we can find ways of improving the quality of service, the outcomes to patients, by a mixed economy – which isn’t by the way purely the private sector or the public sector but also the voluntary sector – then why wouldn’t we do it?
“However that is by no means the objective of bringing in Simon. The whole point of bringing in Simon is he had global experience of different models of healthcare and an ability to help us guide the NHS through the very difficult years ahead.”
Sir Malcolm said Mr Stevens was “absolutely” committed to universal care that was free at the point of need.
“One of the big values that we wanted to explore with him was that very commitment and also his belief that the NHS is today living on borrowed time and we need to be more innovative, we need to be more experimental.
“We can’t close the NHS to ideas from abroad. His very vision, his internationalism and commitment to values were what ultimately convinced the board that he was the best man for the job.”