New NHS chief returns to his roots

Simon Stevens, a former private health firm executive, will start his new job as chief executive of NHS England today.

Simon Stevens spent time meeting staff and patients at Shotley Bridge Hospital in County Durham (AP)

Practice Nurse Lesley Dobson takes the blood pressure of the new chief executive of NHS, Simon Stevens at Consett Medical Centre in County Durham.

First published in National News © by

The new boss of the NHS has visited a town hospital in the north of England on his first day in the job.

Simon Stevens, 47, spent time meeting staff and patients at Shotley Bridge Hospital in County Durham.

The former president of a US private healthcare firm started his career at the hospital as a trainee manager 25 years ago.

Rolling up his sleeves and tucking in his tie, he asked patients about what their care was like and how good the food was.

Speaking at the hospital, he said: "I'm spending my first day back in the job meeting patients, nurses and doctors here where I first started in the NHS.

"It's clear from talking to patients that the quality of care is fantastic."

He then went on to visit Consett Medical Centre, where it seems the stresses of his first day had taken its toll as after having his blood pressure taken he was told it was slightly high.

He had been widely regarded as Prime Minister David Cameron's preferred candidate for the job and was previously a health adviser to Tony Blair when he was prime minister.

His final stop of the day this afternoon will be the International Centre for Life in Newcastle, where he is expected to say the traditional way some NHS services are delivered "no longer makes much sense".

He will say that pressure on the health service is "intensifying" and that the traditional "partitioning" of services is no longer fit for purpose.

In a speech, which will be delivered to health workers in Newcastle, he is expected to 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."

He will say that care outside of hospitals needs to "radically" transform.

Mr Stevens will also praise NHS whistleblowers, saying that patients' lives are saved when "courageous" people speak out.

"I know that for the NHS the stakes have never been higher," he will say.

"Service pressures are intensifying and long-standing 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.

"Today we face new challenges, and will need new solutions, while holding on to the vital gains of the past. Fortunately, over the years the NHS has shown a proven ability to rise to the occasion.

"We know that the quality of NHS care is usually very high - but occasionally it isn't, and we all want that to change.

"We know we're going to need patients and carers to help redesign care, and that an NHS with a 'like it or lump it' attitude will simply not survive.

"We know that, of course, not every whistleblower will always get it right, but the fact is: patients' lives are saved when courageous people speak up - openly and honestly - and when each of us takes personal accountability for putting things right.

"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."

Before taking on his new role, he was president of global health and group executive vice-president at UnitedHealth, the US private healthcare firm, and had also worked across the NHS running hospitals, health authorities and community services.

He is taking over from Sir David Nicholson, who decided to retire following the Stafford Hospital scandal.

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 was given a tour of the International Centre for Life in Newcastle where he signed a wall that other notable visitors had also signed.

Some of these included Richard Dawkins and Sir Robert Winston and under his name Mr Stevens wrote in brackets "Day one".

Speaking at the facility on the difficulties faced by the NHS he said he was sure the organisation would rise to the challenges it would face in the coming years.

"There are big changes facing the NHS but it has faced them in the past and always rises to the occasion," he said.

"Talking to the doctors and nurses today, people are quite optimistic about the opportunities that new medical innovations bring."

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