New NHS England chief spends his first day in North East

Simon Stevens makes first speech as CEO and discusses future challenges with patients and NHS staff 

The new chief executive of NHS England will today (Tuesday) spend his first day in the job in the north east where he started his NHS career 26 years ago.

Simon Stevens will start by meeting patients and nurses at Shotley Bridge Hospital, Consett, County Durham, and will then visit a GP-led medical centre where he will meet patients and staff. The centre serves 20,000 patients and is open all day, into the evening, and at weekends. It also offers online booking and repeat prescribing – as will all GPs by the end of this year – making care better and more convenient for patients.

Mr Stevens will then travel to South Shields – one of 14 new national “integration pioneers” – where the NHS and the local council and voluntary groups are working with patients to help them take more control of their own health.

He will conclude with a visit to the International Centre for Life in Newcastle, where he will see how the NHS is supporting breakthrough medical research to find new ways of caring for patients.

Drawing on these visits, Mr Stevens will then give his first speech in his new role to an audience of around 300 NHS staff, health professionals and researchers, local public service leaders and educationalists.

He will tell his audience: “The global recession has meant the NHS facing its most sustained budget crunch in its 66-year history. But care for our patients has continued to be of an extremely high standard. That is a remarkable tribute to the personal dedication – and shared sacrifice – of health service staff. We should say thank you. As someone who has spent the last decade working in health care around the world, I know of no other country’s health system which has managed this economically turbulent period better.”

He will add: “I know that 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 make clear that he wants to spend his early days in the role “listening to what patients, carers and frontline NHS staff have to say about how the NHS is doing – and what needs to change”.

He will also outline some of the areas in which he believes there is now a broad policy and political consensus for action, including action to raise standards of care for older people, better joint working between health and social care, and new models of care delivery harnessing new advances in medicine.

He will say: “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.

“We also know that – increasingly – quality isn’t just about the individual test result or prescription or hospital stay, it’s about how all the pieces come together.

“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. 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.

“Amazingly, one-in-three of the children born across England this very day are likely to live to celebrate their 100th birthday. Our mission is to ensure that a caring, compassionate and modern NHS is there for them throughout their lives, every step of the way.”