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Former Blair adviser to lead NHS England

Simon Stevens to succeed David Nicholson

Simon Stevens NHSUnitedHealth's Simon Stevens was yesterday announced as the next chief executive of NHS England, replacing Sir David Nicholson on April 1, 2014.

Stevens, who was an adviser to Tony Blair during his time as Prime Minister of the UK, will need to use his 26 years' experience in healthcare management across the public and private sector to lead the organisation at a time of immense upheaval and intensive cost-cutting.

The NHS has also experienced intense scrutiny in recent years, notably from the landmark Francis report into poor standards of care and patient neglect at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, which arguably led to Sir David's decision to step down after it emerged he was briefly head of the local Strategic Health Authority during the period covered by the report.

Stevens offers both an insider and outsider perspective on the NHS, having most recently served as president of global at US private healthcare group UnitedHealth.

In this role, he has handled directly the impact of President Obama's healthcare reforms, heading up the company's reform implementation and care innovation plans, which include developing new models of technology-enabled support for patients with chronic conditions.

Prior to joining UnitedHealth in 2004 Stevens spent more than 20 years involved in UK healthcare, during which time he served as policy adviser to the health secretary from 1997 to 2001 and then health adviser to the Prime Minister from 2001 to 2004.

While holding these roles he co-authored the NHS plan to modernise and the service and bring together patient groups, healthcare professional, carers and frontline staff. He also founded the Department of Health's strategy unit.

This career in policy follows time spent working in the NHS itself, including stints as group manger of Guys and St Thomas' Hospitals in London and general manager for mental health services in North Tyneside and Northumberland.

This extensive career in healthcare was commended by the membership body for NHS managers, the NHS Confederation, which welcomed the appointment of Stevens.

“I have known Simon since we worked together at Guy's and St Thomas' hospitals,” said Matt Tee, chief operating officer of the NHS Confederation.

“His appointment is really 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."

Chris Ham, chief executive of UK healthcare think-tank The King's Fund, advised that Stevens was not a direct replacement for Sir David, considering the recent introduction of NHS England last year.

“This will mean treading a careful line between responding to the priorities of ministers on the one hand and, on the other, working collaboratively with colleagues from the other main national bodies to provide strong collective leadership for the NHS,” he said.

Ham added: “Simon brings exceptional knowledge of working at the highest level of government, a strong commitment to the NHS and significant international experience. He will also have a keen appetite for addressing the challenges facing the NHS - as such I can't think of anyone better qualified for the role.”

These comments were backed by Stevens himself: “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.”

25th October 2013

From: Healthcare

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