CE of NHS England ‘Standing Down’

CE of NHS England ‘Standing Down’

The Health Service Journal has announced that the Chief Exectutive of NHS England is to stand down.

Sir Simon Stevens will leave the post he has held for seven years, at the end of July.

The HSJ said Sir Simon has led the NHS “Through some of the most difficult periods in its history."

The HSJ website said the Government has announced that Sir Simon will become a member of the House of Lords but report senior sources as saying the NHS chief plans to take a break before starting another role.

His departure has  been rumoured for the past two years.

Sir Simon took up his role in April 2014.

In a message written to staff, Sir Steven said “Back then, I answered the call with my eyes open, knowing about impending NHS funding pressures, the controversy at the time over the recently passed 2012 legislation, and the need to fundamentally reorientate the strategic direction of the NHS.”

“What I didn’t know was that we’d also be dealing with the political uncertainty of three general elections, three prime ministers, and a referendum. Let alone the worst pandemic in a century.”

“But having agreed last year to stay on to see us through the pandemic pressures, now seems like a good time to hand on the baton.”

He added there will be an “Open competitive recruitment process for my successor and the post will be advertised shortly.”

During his leadership, Sir Simon oversaw the merger of NHS England with NHS Improvement and the response to the coronavirus pandemic.

HSJ said “Much of the seven-year period was marked by government austerity measures, during which Sir Simon was credited with securing relatively generous funding settlements from the Treasury.”

Sir Simon spoke out publicly during Budget negotiations if he felt funding was insufficient. Commentator reportedly described him as “The most politically skilled public service leader of his generation.”

Michael Watson writes…

Unlike most NHS bosses, Sir Simon Stevens came to the job knowing quite a bit about NHS dentistry. Before he arrived, he wrote an article for the Health Service Journal on ’Toothless Dental Policies’.

The Conservatives had just set out their plans for reform of NHS dentistry, following the disaster that had been the 2006 contract and the criticism it had received from the Health Select Committee.

His conclusion? That their plans did not answer fundamental questions that have bedevilled the temporary fixes of two decades. First, what is the ultimate goal of NHS-funded dentistry? And then how are you going to tackle the entrenched perverse effects arising from the current structure of the “mixed economy” of dental provision?

He asked “is the fundamental public policy goal: a) to provide a full service for poorer people, or b) a tightly rationed core service for everyone?” In other words, he said, the money will buy you a comprehensive but non-universal service, or a universal non-comprehensive one. In 2009 he said we have neither just ‘chronic confusion and dissatisfaction. The same could be said in 2021 after seven years with him in charge of the NHS.

The second problem was to address is the mess arising from the interaction between public and private provision. The NHS has not decided whether dentists are really quasi-public providers to nurture and coax, or independent contractors to commission and manage accordingly.

Whilst I am personally grateful to the NHS for organising an operation which has delivered me and millions of others two Covid-19 vaccinations, I cannot as a retired dentist forgive the way in which NHS England has treated the profession, during Sir Simon’s tenure in office.

Having read his HSJ article I had, perhaps naively, high hopes that with someone in charge who had some knowledge of dentistry and its problems, we could see progress on reform. Instead we are still looking for a way out.

He described dentistry as the very word "enough to sink hearts on the fourth floor of Richmond House (then the office of the Department of Health". It is likely to sink the heart of his successor.


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