Simon Stevens’ eventful seven-year stint as the high-profile, independent-minded boss of the NHS in England is coming to an end, NHS insiders and Whitehall sources have confirmed.
Attention is now falling on who might replace him whenever he does stand down. Formally NHS England’s board will select his successor, but Boris Johnson will also play a key role in the appointment.
Those in the running to succeed him include:
As the chief operating officer of NHS England and its sister body, NHS Improvement, she is Stevens’ deputy, although she is as low-profile as he is a regular performer in the media. She was previously the chief executive of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS trust, one of the biggest NHS trusts in England. NHS insiders say she has “huge credibility” in the service, having run a big trust. “Amanda is known and adored among NHS trust chief executives because of her hands-on experience at the frontline,” said one supporter. “She’s seen as someone who will be the boss of NHS England at some point, but just maybe not yet.”
This would be a controversial choice. The boss of the government’s ill-fated £22bn test and trace programme, she has faced criticism for the performance of the system.
Harding is a Conservative peer, married to Tory MP John Penrose and a friend of the health secretary, Matt Hancock. The former businesswoman has learned a lot about the NHS in recent years as the chair of NHS Improvement, test and trace and the new National Institute for Health Protection. Until recently, she was thought to be Downing Street’s preferred candidate to replace Stevens – but test and trace’s dismal performance is understood to have cooled No 10’s enthusiasm
Sir Jim Mackey
Currently, the chief executive of the Northumbria NHS trust, which runs 10 hospitals in the north-east, he a no-nonsense operator who spent two years running NHS Improvement, the health service’s financial regulator, so has experience of running a national NHS body and dealing with ministers. He is widely admired in the service as one of its most creative thinkers; for example he arranged a deal in which his trust’s local council took over its private iinance initiative debt.