New NHS chief warns of need for shake-up

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The traditional model of healthcare will have to change as the NHS faces the “most sustained budget crunch in its 66-year history”, the incoming head of the English health service will say on Tuesday.

In his first speech in the role, Simon Stevens, a former Labour health adviser who has spent almost a decade working in the private health sector in the US, will say the NHS must work with patients to change the way care is delivered as it grapples with the demands of an ageing population with more chronic health conditions.

Speaking to health service staff in Newcastle, he will add: “An NHS with a ‘like it or lump it’ attitude will simply not survive.”

His predecessor, Sir David Nicholson, became embroiled in a row over the health service’s stance towards whistleblowers, after it was revealed that millions had been spent on “compromise agreements”, widely interpreted as preventing former employees from speaking out about the circumstances of their departures.

In comments that appear aimed at drawing a line under that episode, Mr Stevens will say: “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.”

Outlining how he believes services must change, Mr Stevens calls for a radical transformation in the way that care is delivered outside hospitals.

“Our traditional partitioning of health services – GPs, hospital outpatients, A&E departments, community nurses, emergency mental healthcare, out of hours units, ambulance services and so on – no longer makes much sense,” he will say.

Stating that “at all times our guiding principle will be: walk in the shoes of the people we serve”, he will urge the health service’s 1.7m employees: “Think like a patient, act like a taxpayer.”

Separately, Labour pointed out that Mr Stevens was taking up his post on the first anniversary of the government’s NHS reforms, which the party said had led to the creation of a total of 440 new organisations that the new chief executive would now have to “navigate . . . if he is to improve failing standards in patient care”.

Andy Burnham, shadow health secretary, welcomed Mr Stevens’ emphasis on integrating health and social care services but warned if that vision was to be delivered “it will mean changing the government’s policy on competition in the NHS, which is holding it back”.

The legislation that implemented the NHS reforms, he said, had “placed the NHS on a fast-track to fragmentation. David Cameron’s reorganisation created more bureaucracy and left the NHS in a weakened financial state. It’s Simon Stevens’ job to make sense of what is currently a very confused picture”, added Mr Burnham.

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