Simon Stevens (healthcare executive)

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Simon Stevens
Simon Stevens.jpg
Stevens in 2016
Chief Executive of NHS England
Assumed office
1 April 2014
Preceded bySir David Nicholson
Lambeth Borough Councillor for Angell Ward
In office
7 May 1998 – 2 May 2002
Personal details
BornShard End, Birmingham, England
Political partynone
Alma materBalliol College, Oxford
University of Strathclyde

Simon Stevens (born 4 August 1966) is a British health manager and public policy analyst. His appointment[1] as chief executive of NHS England with effect from 1 April 2014 was announced in October 2013, succeeding David Nicholson. He was said by the Health Service Journal in December 2013 to be the second most powerful person in the English NHS, even before he took up his appointment.[2] He has stayed top of their list of the most influential people in health for the past five years.[3]

Personal life[edit]

Simon Stevens was born on 4 August 1966 in Birmingham, England,[4] the son of a Baptist minister and university administrator.[5] He was educated at a state comprehensive, St. Bartholomew's School, and won a scholarship to Balliol College, Oxford where he read PPE and was president of the Oxford Union in the same academic year as friend Boris Johnson. He received an MBA from the University of Strathclyde, and was a Harkness Fellow at Columbia University. His wife, Maggie, is an American public health specialist, who gave birth to their son on Christmas Day 2003 at St Thomas' Hospital[6] and daughter in 2008.[7]


After university Stevens first worked in Guyana,[8] and then from 1988 to 1997 as a healthcare manager in the UK and internationally. He started his NHS career on the NHS Graduate Management Training Scheme at Shotley Bridge General Hospital, the largest employer in Consett, County Durham after the closure of the steel works.[9][10] After a spell in Congo and Malawi, he became general manager for a large NHS psychiatric hospital outside Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and ran community mental health services for North Tyneside and Northumberland. He was then appointed group manager of Guy's and St Thomas’ hospitals in London[11] before moving to New York City Health Department.[12]


In 1997 he was appointed policy adviser to two successive Secretaries of State for Health (Frank Dobson and Alan Milburn) at the UK Department of Health. From 2001 to 2004 he was health policy adviser to Tony Blair at 10 Downing Street. Stevens was a Labour councillor for Brixton, in the London Borough of Lambeth 1998–2002. He was closely associated with the development of the NHS Plan 2000.


From 2004 to 2014 Stevens was a senior executive at UnitedHealth Group. Initially appointed president of UnitedHealth Europe, he became CEO of UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement, and then corporate Executive Vice President and president of its global health businesses. He also served on the board of directors of Brazil's largest hospital group AMIL.

While living in Minneapolis, USA, he continued to write articles about the NHS. He was instrumental in establishing a non-profit institute to publish information about waste in the US health system.[13] He also served on the boards of various non-profits, including the King's Fund; the Nuffield Trust; the Minnesota Historical Society; the Minnesota Opera; and the Medicare Rights Center (New York).

Chief executive of NHS England[edit]

As the NHS England CEO, he is directly accountable to Parliament for management of £115 billion of annual NHS funding. He frequently gives evidence to the Public Accounts Committee, the House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee, and other Parliamentary committees. He has used the statutory independence of NHS England to speak openly about NHS funding and reform.[14] In January 2019 he welcomed new figures from the Office for National Statistics showing that NHS productivity in England has been rising at 3%, triple the performance of the overall UK economy.[15]

On his return to the NHS, the Guardian reported one health expert as saying "He’s coming back to a pay cut [and] the mother of all messes”.[16] As of 2015, Stevens was paid a salary of between £190,000 and £194,999 by NHS England, making him one of the 328 most highly paid people in the British public sector at that time[17] though each year he has opted for a voluntary £20,000 pay cut.[18] According to Fraser Nelson, hiring Stevens back to run NHS England was one of the cleverest moves that David Cameron has made because he "knows more about NHS problems and market solutions than any man alive".[19]

NHS Five Year Forward View[edit]

He was responsible for the Five Year Forward View[20] produced by NHS England in October 2014.[21] This marked the beginning of a major shift in how NHS care is delivered, in contrast to NHS policy since 1991. Instead care is increasingly being redesigned to achieve the "triple integration" of primary and specialist care, physical and mental health services, and NHS and social care.[22][23]

Stevens has also prioritised the modernisation of NHS primary care,[24] mental health and cancer care[25] having commissioned an independent national taskforce led by Sir Harpal Kumar the chief executive of Cancer Research UK.[26] In 2015 he commissioned the independent Five Year Forward View for mental health chaired by Paul Farmer the head of MIND.[1] He subsequently directed that each year local mental health spending must rise faster than overall NHS funding growth.[27] Given increasing concerns about young people’s mental health and eating disorders, he voiced concern on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show about cosmetic surgery adverts during ITV’s Love Island series.[28] Shortly after, ITV’s chief executive agreed to reconsider the ads,[29] and the Advertising Standards Authority went on to ban them.[30] He has suggested that social media companies might be asked to contribute to funding improved mental health support for young people.[31] He has also drawn attention to the growing problem of gambling addictions and the predominance of sports-related gambling promotions.[32][33] He has announced a dedicated confidential national mental health support service for NHS doctors.[34]

He has argued that "obesity is the new smoking"[35] and pushed for greater NHS, family, business and government action to tackle it.[36] Stevens initiated NHS England's work with local authorities and developers to 'design in' health promoting built environments.[37][38] These are now designated 'NHS healthy new towns'.[39] He launched the obesity-reducing NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme[40] and later backed its national expansion.[41] He has championed NHS work to cut sugary drinks and junk food from hospitals,[42] and suggested there should be a national sugar tax. In March 2016 Chancellor George Osborne announced a tax on sugary drinks.[43]

While supporting expanded health training opportunities for UK workers, he has backed ongoing selective international recruitment in the NHS. In October 2015 speaking to the Institute of Directors at the Albert Hall he queried why ballet dancers but not nurses were on the Home Office’s ‘shortage occupation list’.[44] A week later the government added nurses to the list.[45] He also led the introduction of an NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard to track and improve the experience and fair treatment of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Staff across the health service.[46] Stevens supports a greater role for the voluntary sector and volunteering in the NHS, as a complement to the work of NHS staff.[47][48][49]

Stevens has championed giving local communities more control over national budgets, including stronger 'Devo Manc' regional powers for Greater Manchester.[50] He has argued for the importance of social care.[51] In October 2018 he pledged up to £50 million for extra NHS support for the community affected by the Grenfell Tower fire.[52] The Local Government Chronicle ranked him the most powerful figure in local government.[53]

NHS funding and Brexit[edit]

Stevens has argued that "One of the problems with NHS funding over the last 70 years has been its volatility. So, we bounce off the banks between boom and bust and that makes it very hard to plan services."[54] In November 2017 Stevens gave a high profile speech making the case for a return to NHS funding increases in line with historic norms and independently assessed requirements.[55][56] He did so against the backdrop of a Vote Leave poster which had promised £350 million a week for the health service and which, he said, the "public want to see honoured":

"Trust in democratic politics will not be strengthened if anyone now tries to argue 'You voted Brexit, partly for a better funded health service. But precisely because of Brexit, you now can’t have one.' A modern NHS is itself part of the practical answer to the deep social concerns that gave rise to Brexit. At a time of national division: an NHS that brings us together. Unifying young and old, town and country, the struggling and the better off. At a time of economic dislocation, when many communities in this country are exposed to the chill winds of globalisation, an NHS where care is available not tied to whether you’ve got a job or your wealth. And an NHS which is often the largest employer in many of these towns across the country."[57] 

His call was widely supported both inside the NHS[58][59] and outside it, ranging from Brexit-supporting Jacob Rees-Mogg[60] to the Remain-supporting general secretary of the TUC.[61]

In June 2018 - just ahead of the NHS' 70th Anniversary - the Prime Minister Theresa May announced extra funding for the NHS worth an average real terms increase of 3.4% a year, reaching £20.5 billion extra in 2023/24.[62]

Stevens led the NHS' 70th anniversary celebrations,[63] including giving the address on 5 July 2018 in the national service of thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey.[64][65][66][67]

NHS Long Term Plan[edit]

On 7 January 2019 Stevens launched[68] the NHS Long Term Plan, drawn up with patient groups and NHS clinicians. It set out how the NHS will use its extra funding to redesign care and improve outcomes over the decade ahead.[69] The Prime Minister spoke at the launch giving government backing to the plan.[70]

In drawing up the NHS Long Term Plan, NHS England was also asked by the cross-party House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee, and by the Prime Minister, to make recommendations on possible changes to health legislation. Stevens came forward with proposals to substantially amend the government’s previous 2012 legislation.[71]

Research and innovation[edit]

Stevens led action to stop NHS funding of homeopathy, on the grounds that "There is no robust evidence to support homeopathy, which is at best a placebo and a misuse of scarce NHS funds.” NHS England was then sued by the British Homeopathic Association who argued that Stevens’ criticisms, including on the BBC Radio Today programme, prejudged its public consultation. The High Court dismissed the BHA challenge, and backed NHS England.[72][73][74]

Speaking at the World Economic Forum he launched the first wave of NHS Innovation Test Beds.[75][76] He supports digital hubs[77] and AI in medicine,[78] and introduced a new NHS innovation payment.[79] NHS England funds Academic Health Science Networks, and Stevens supported the Accelerated Access Review arguing:

“As a nation we need to pursue three goals simultaneously. First, we must actively support new discovery and further development of innovative treatments and care. Second, we have no choice other than to drive value and affordability across the NHS if we're going to create headroom for faster and wider uptake of important new patient treatments. And third, in the run-up to Brexit we need not only to secure - but enhance - our vibrant and globally successful UK life sciences sector."[80]

Stevens has actively promoted genomics, and cell and gene therapies on the NHS.[81] In Autumn 2018 he announced that the NHS had become the first health service in Europe to negotiate approvals for newly licensed breakthrough CAR-T cancer therapies.[82][83]

Other activities and awards[edit]

Stevens was a Visiting Professor at the London School of Economics from 2004 to 2008.

He was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Birmingham in 2015, and is an honorary fellow of the Royal College of General Practitioners.

Since becoming NHS England CEO he has given lectures and speeches at the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Durham, Exeter, London, Birmingham, York, Manchester, Southampton, Newcastle, and previously at Harvard, Yale, and NYU.

He is regularly interviewed on BBC TV, ITV, Sky News, Channel Four News and the Today programme, as well as the Andrew Marr Show. He has also appeared on the Jeremy Vine Show,[84] BBC Breakfast,[85] Any Questions?[86] and The One Show.[87]

Since 2013 Stevens has served on the board of directors of the Commonwealth Fund of New York [88] and is a member of its Investment Committee.


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