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US healthcare boss to be appointed chief executive of NHS England next year

UnitedHealth boss Simon Stevens has been appointed as the next chief executive of NHS England and will take over next April.

Simon Stevens will take over the position from Sir David Nicholson, who was unable to shake off widespread criticism after the Francis report into the failures of care at Mid Staffordshire Foundation NHS Trust scandal and subsequently resigned.

Simon Stevens is currently executive vice president of the private healthcare giant UnitedHealth Group. He is also president of its Global Health division and before that health policy director for former Prime Minister Tony Blair, responsible for reform of the NHS.

NHS England said that Mr Stevens would be paid a salary of £211,000, but had volunteered to take a voluntary 10% pay cut for the year ahead, so he will instead draw a salary of £189,900.

Professor Malcolm Grant, chair of NHS England, said that they had looked at over 100 potential candidates and that Mr Stevens was the best man for the job because he could bring experience from many different models of healthcare delivery.

He told BBC Radio 4: ‘In Simon Stevens, we are confident we have found someone who is a global leader in health. We wanted to find the best person to bring new ideas and innvovation into the NHS.’

In a statement, 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.’

In a joint statement, NHS Clinical Commissioners’ interim chair Dr Charles Alessi and interim president Dr Michael Dixon said the appointment was ‘hugely welcome’.

They said: ‘The NHS faces significant challenges and we look forward to working with him to to ensure that the commissioning system is aligned around a common goal that means the NHS delivers the highest possible quality care as efficiently as possible.’

But Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the GPC, said to Pulse: ‘Simon Stevens clearly knows the NHS well and is highly able, but he is returning to an NHS that is under huge pressure and in a very financially challenged environment.

‘What we hope is that he will recognise the central role of GPs and general practice in ensuring the future sustainability of the NHS, that he will support, develop and invest in general practice – recognising this will be key to cost efficiencies the NHS requires. 

‘GPs are part of the solution to the NHS pressures and challenges – and that will mean reversing the progressive disinvestment in general practice over recent years.’

Dr Nagpaul added: ‘We also hope he will see the value in enabling the NHS to work in a more co-ordinated way, ensuring the NHS is consolidated and stabilised and existing providers are supported rather than threatened, because that is what’s required for it to work within this extremely challenging environment.’

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