Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature Interview

Simon Stevens: the man charged with saving the NHS

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: (Published 18 November 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g6895
  1. Gareth Iacobucci, news reporter, The BMJ
  1. giacobucci{at}

Eight months into the NHS’s top job, Simon Stevens’s intelligent refusal to enforce a “one size fits all” solution on the service’s ills is—so far—winning him the backing of staff. He talks to Gareth Iacobucci

Simon Stevens’s appointment as the chief executive of NHS England in April was widely welcomed by a health service looking for bold and intelligent leadership. Some have bestowed on him an almost messianic ability to cure the NHS of all its ills, but Stevens does not betray this weight on his shoulders as he cheerfully greets The BMJ at his south London office.

Described as “dazzlingly bright” and regarded as one of the United Kingdom’s leading thinkers on healthcare reform, Stevens was understood to have been Prime Minister David Cameron’s first choice to succeed the outgoing David Nicholson in the role.1 This, coupled with a longstanding belief in the NHS, convinced him to return from the United States, where he had worked for the health insurance giant UnitedHealth since 2004.

Before this, Stevens’s career began in NHS management before a spell in New York as a Commonwealth Harkness fellow in public policy and later as a health adviser to the then prime minister, Tony Blair, from 1997 to 2004. Stevens was one of the architects of Labour’s 2000 NHS Plan, which transformed the service’s fortunes through a substantial programme of investment and reorganisation. Although the economic climate is far gloomier today, Cameron is clearly hoping that Stevens’s experience and aptitude can steer the NHS away from the edge of the cliff that it currently finds itself on.

Now eight months into his tenure, Stevens has been proactive in identifying how to fix a service that is struggling to control demand against an unprecedented financial squeeze and an ageing population with a growing number of …

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