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Simon Stevens: new NHS leader who’s “not just Mr Insurance USA”

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 29 October 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f6512
  1. Peter Davies, freelance journalist, London
  1. petergdavies{at}

His appointment as the new chief executive of NHS England has been greeted with messianic enthusiasm. But who is the real Simon Stevens, asks Peter Davies

There is no one like him. He is intellectually gifted, charming, funny, and a great communicator. He is a natural and persuasive leader who exudes quiet confidence. He is widely read and writes superbly. The NHS is lucky to get him. “I can’t think of anyone better able to face what’s coming our way.”

Those who know Simon Stevens greeted his appointment from next April as chief executive of NHS England with messianic enthusiasm. Others may take more convincing. They see a former NHS manager and leading Blairite special advisor, an unapologetic proponent of competition in the health service who has spent the last nine years at the top of an American health insurance company. Does this CV represent unrivalled experience for his new job or cumbersome baggage that will arouse suspicion and mistrust?

Some are puzzled that Stevens should wish to return. Long settled in Minneapolis, with an American wife and two young …

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