30 May 2014

New NHS boss backs more local hospitals

Simon Stevens, the new of NHS England, says the health service needs to expand local services and that too many people are being robbed of “dignity and compassion” due to a lack of local care.

NHS chief Simon Stevens

Mr Stevens, who took up his new role last month, told the Telegraph that local hospitals can be sustainable in smaller communities.

“A number of other countries have found it possible to run viable local hospitals serving smaller communities than sometimes we think are sustainable in the NHS,” he said.

If you were starting from scratch you would not design community services like that. Simon Stevens

“Most of western Europe has hospitals which are able to serve their local communities, without everything having to be centralised.”

Mr Stevens replaced David Nicholson, who decided to resign following the Stafford Hospital scandal.

The new NHS chief said care systems outside hospital need to change and need greater investment, especially to support the elderly.

‘Modern health service’

“You cannot have a modern health service that is not treating older patients with dignity and compassion, supporting them at home and ensuring targeted prevention [of ill health],” he said.

He added: “There is a big opportunity to reorganise that so it meets the needs of those at home. At the moment it is too complicated and too fragmented.

“If you were starting from scratch you would not design community services like that.”

Businesses should also financially reward employees for losing weight and adopting a healthy lifestyle, he suggested, mimicking similar schemes in the US.

On Wednesday he will make a speech to the NHS Confederation’s conference in Liverpool, outlining new models of care to build community services around small hospitals and meet the needs of an ageing population.

He said it could see hospitals taking over the running of some GP services, and more close working between specialist and community care.