NHS chief executive to step down

Sir Simon Stevens will leave his role on 31 July

NHS rainbow in chalk
NHS chief executive, Sir Simon Stevens, has announced his decision to stand down from his position at the end of July.

Stevens has held the position for more than seven years, having taken up the post on 1 April, 2014.

The chief executive notified the NHS England Board last year of his intention to stand down this summer.

The NHS England Board will now seek to appoint a successor before Stevens steps down on 31 July. The chosen candidate will then be subject to ratification by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.

Stevens will continue to lead the NHS until the end of July, and continue to oversee “successful completion of NHS England’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout to all adults,” NHS England confirmed in a statement.

Describing joining the health service in his early twenties as “one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” Stevens added that this was followed three decades later “by the privilege of leading the NHS through some of the toughest challenges in its history.”

He said: “The people of this country have rightly recognised the extraordinary service of NHS staff during this terrible pandemic, as well as the success of our COVID-19 vaccination deployment.”

“As the pandemic recedes in this country, the NHS’s track record in advancing medical progress in a way that works for everyone rightly continues to inspire young people to join one of the greatest causes – health and high quality care for all, now and for future generations,” he continued.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson thanked Stevens for his “dedicated service” particularly “when facing the extraordinary challenges of the past year, and for his huge contribution to our vaccine rollout,” while Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock called him a “steadfast and sage leader.”

Stevens first joined the NHS in 1988 through its graduate management programme. He has held several positions throughout his career, including working in frontline NHS services, in international healthcare in both the public and private sectors, and at 10 Downing Street and the Department of Health.

He was knighted in 2020 for services to health and the NHS. On stepping down from the chief executive position Stevens will be made a peer.

Health leaders react

Responding to the announcement, leaders across the NHS and health organisations recognised contributions Stevens has made to the NHS during his tenure.

Leaders particularly highlighted key challenges that the health service has had to navigate in the past seven years. Chair of NHS England, Lord David Prior, said: “Simon has successfully led the NHS through its greatest ever challenges – the worst pandemic in a century, the greatest funding squeeze since the second world war, and unprecedented political volatility working alongside three prime ministers and four chancellors against the backdrop of three general elections and a referendum.”

Suggesting that the NHS and the country “owe him a huge debt of gratitude,” Prior noted his guidance of the health service through the “horrendous winter wave of coronavirus, while simultaneously directing the world’s fastest and most successful large scale COVID-19 vaccination rollout.”

Several leaders noted Stevens’ role in key areas of strategy, including the introduction of the NHS Long Term Plan.

Recognising his “determination and skill” in making the case for investment in health and healthcare, Lord Victor Adebowale, chair of the NHS Confederation, highlighted: “His personal commitment to addressing inequity in our workplaces and communities, which long predates the agenda of the last 12 months, has been striking but so has the breadth of his focus and impact across the NHS.”

“As the main architect of the NHS Long Term Plan, he has left a lasting legacy for the NHS, as we move into a new era based on collaboration and partnership,” he added.