New NHS chief: Stakes have never been higher for service, warns incoming Simon Stevens

First-day speech will call for reform of ‘disjointed’ services to focus on patients

The NHS needs to “think like a patient” but “act like a taxpayer” if it is to maintain standards of care in times of austerity, the new head of the organisation will warn today.

On his first day as chief executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens will call for a fundamental overhaul of disjointed services that are not focused on patients.

And he will warn that “the stakes have never been higher” with “service pressures” intensifying at a time when budgets are likely to be constrained for years to come.

A former health adviser to Tony Blair, he was appointed to take over from Sir David Nicholson as head of the NHS last October. Sir David took early retirement following widespread media criticism for his role in the Mid Staffordshire scandal.

Mr Stevens, who joined the NHS as a management trainee in 1988, held a number of roles within the organisation before moving into politics and pioneering Labour’s health reforms of the early 2000s. Most recently he was president of the global health division of the American company United Health Group.

He is due to address about 300 NHS staff and other health professionals in the North-east today, where he is expected to lay out what he sees as the key challenges facing the organisation.

“The global recession has meant the NHS facing its most sustained budget crunch in its 66-year history,” he will say.

“For the NHS the stakes have never been higher. Service pressures are intensifying, and longstanding problems are not going to disappear overnight. Successfully navigating the next few years is going to take a team effort – involving the biggest team in the biggest effort the NHS has ever seen.”

He will then outline the areas where, he will say, there is a broad political consensus for change, including action to raise standards of care for older people, better joint-working between health and social care, and harnessing advances in medicine.

“An ageing population with more chronic health conditions, but with new opportunities to live as independently as possible, means we’re going to have to radically transform how care is delivered outside hospitals,” he will say.

“Our traditional partitioning of health services – GPs, hospital outpatients, A&E departments, community nurses, emergency mental health care, out of hours units, ambulance services and so on – no longer makes much sense.”

Mr Stevens will conclude: “At all times our guiding principle will be: walk in the shoes of the people we serve. Think like a patient, act like a tax payer.”

Labour’s shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham said he “wished Simon Stevens well”, but added people should be in no doubt about the scale of the challenge facing the NHS. “The NHS has just been through its worst year for a decade in A&E and staff morale is at rock-bottom following a re-organisation no one wanted,” he said.

“Turning things around will require strong leadership and an ability to stand up to political interference from David Cameron and Jeremy Hunt.”

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