NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens is to stand down from the role at the end of July and become a peer in the House of Lords.
Stevens confidentially notified the NHS England board of his intention leave the post he has held since 2014 last year. NHS England said Stevens planned to continue to lead the NHS and “oversee the successful completion” of the Covid vaccination rollout to all adults in his remaining three months.
Prime minister Boris Johnson said Stevens had “led the NHS with great distinction” during his seven years at its helm, but gave particular praise for his contribution since Covid-19 struck.
“I want to thank him for his dedicated service throughout – but especially when facing the extraordinary pressures of the past year, and for his huge contribution to our vaccine rollout,” Johnson said.
Former Labour health minister Prof Lord Ara Darzi said it was hard to think of anyone who had a more profound and positive impact on the NHS in its seven-decade history than Stevens.
“As well as ensuring – against all the odds – that the NHS has successfully made it through both austerity and the covid pandemic with its reputation rightly enhanced, he has initiated and overseen the most important and comprehensive redesign of services since 1948,” Darzi said.
“He has also been a huge supporter of innovation, and has given the green light to NHS investment in a wide range of practical clinical improvements ranging from modern cancer treatments to groundbreaking personalised gene therapies for rare diseases.”
NHS England said there would be an open competitive recruitment process for Stevens’ successor, and that the post would be advertised shortly with the aim of having the next chief exec in place by 31 July.
It said the appointment of the NHS England board’s preferred candidate would be subject to ratification by health secretary Matt Hancock.
Stevens first joined the NHS in 1988 through its graduate management programme. Before becoming NHS England chief executive in April 2014 he worked in frontline NHS services and in international health care, in both the public and private sectors. He has also held roles in 10 Downing Street and at the Department of Health.
The Prime Minister’s Office said yesterday that Stevens would be granted a life peerage when he steps down as the NHS chief.