NHS facing biggest ever challenge, says new boss

Staying healthy is a "team effort", NHS England's chief executive Simon Stevens says

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The NHS is facing the biggest challenge in its history because of the squeeze on its budget, says its new boss.

In a speech on his first day as NHS England's chief executive, Simon Stevens, will say the health service is enduring the most sustained "budget crunch in its 66-year history".

He will warn navigating the next few years will require a huge effort.

And he will say only by "radically transforming services" will the NHS continue to thrive.

Mr Stevens joins NHS England after a decade working for the US firm United Healthcare.

Before that he worked as a health adviser in Tony Blair's government and held various management posts in the NHS.

The speech will be made on Tuesday evening after he spends the day visiting services in the North East, which is where he started his NHS career in the late 1980s.

'Biggest effort'

He is expected to say: "The global recession has meant the NHS facing its most sustained budget crunch in its 66-year history.

Who is Simon Stevens?

Despite having worked in the US in recent years, the Oxford University graduate has plenty of NHS experience.

During the late 1980s and for much of the 1990s he worked in a number of management positions, including a stint at Guy's and St Thomas's Hospital Trust in London and for a mental health service in Northumberland.

In 1997, he became an adviser to Alan Milburn and co-authored the 2000 NHS Plan, which led to record increases in investment for the health service.

From 2001 to 2004 he worked directly with Tony Blair and was a strong advocate for increasing the use of the private sector.

After that he joined United Healthcare, first to lead their European arm and then as a senior executive in the US in charge of global operations.

"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.

"As someone who has spent the last decade working in healthcare around the world, I know of no other country's health system which has managed this economically turbulent period better."

But 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 say a key challenge relates to the ageing population and how people are supported to live as "independently as possible".

"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."

Mr Stevens has replaced Sir David Nicholson, who announced last year he was stepping down after seven years leading the health service.

He had faced repeated calls to resign over his role in the Stafford Hospital scandal.

Sir David spent 10 months in charge of the local health authority in 2005 and 2006 at the height of the problems.

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