Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England, has emerged as a key player in delivering the policy and resources changes for the Government to determine in the autumn budget review especially with regard to social care.  He was involved in a lengthy meeting at Downing Street with the Prime Minister and Health and Social Care Secretary of State last week prior to the Prime Minister’s announcement of an extra £384 million a week for the NHS.

As a civil servant Stevens is not free to engage directly in the political debate but nevertheless he has a long summer ahead of him working on how the NHS can square the circle on improving both NHS England and achieve greater integration with social care taking into account the role of local authorities. 

Last week Stevens addressed the issue of NHS funding at the NHS Confederation conference in Manchester where he said that it was a “tremendous economic bargain” at £6.60 per person per day, 30 per cent less than the spending in Germany. However, he added, it would need “a change of gear” to cope with future challenges, including a move away from the use of outpatient clinics to monitor long-term conditions.

Ian Dalton, his counterpart at NHS Improvement, said that 80 new district general hospitals would be needed in the next decade unless there were drastic changes. He said: “It’s clear that the NHS is at a pivotal point in its history.”

With days to go before the 70 anniversary of the NHS on July 3 few would disagree. However, the NHS Federation considers that the annual NHS winter crisis now lasts all year. Niall Dickson, chief executive of the body, which represents NHS trusts and health authorities, said: “Without new ways of delivering services and sustained investment, NHS and care services will simply not be able to cope. We are not currently doing enough for the old, the sick and the vulnerable, and as things stand it will get worse.”

Returning to Stevens and his part in the policy and resources changes it is clear from government announcements that he has a big role to play in ensuring that additional NHS resources are not wasted. This is designed to deliver real change – Stevens speaking for himself made an impassioned plea at the NHS Confederation last week for solutions to the current childhood mental health epidemic driven by social media. Stevens who has two children asked some searching questions around the role of technology companies, social media, and the impact they are having on childhood obesity.

However, Stevens is being charged by government to publish in November a highly detailed plan on what the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care describes as “big milestones on productivity, efficiency and waste.” It is clear that this mandate involves ensuring the bringing forward of a long-term funding plan for the social care system and integrating it with the NHS.

If anyone can deliver this mandate for NHS England it is Stevens with his range of contacts across the political spectrum. His career is not only outstanding for his academic credentials, and working in the NHS, but his past political experience involved four years as a Labour councillor in South London and later as health adviser to Tony Blair. He is also a close friend of the current Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.