Securing a social care funding deal and patient safety should be priorities for the new health secretary, Simon Stevens indicated in an interview with HSJ.

The NHS England chief executive praised former health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt’s championing of patient safety, and “more recent” campaigning for social care, and suggested these should continue.

Asked about whether the NHS would miss outgoing health secretary Jeremy Hunt, Mr Stevens said: “The agenda Jeremy set around patient safety is an important one… and it will be important that it continues… and I think his more recent emphasis on social care is something that’s obviously going to be vital to get right over the next several months.”

The NHS England chief executive added: “When push came to shove Jeremy respected the independence of the [Care Quality Commission] and the distinctive role of NHS England, both of those are also an important part of his legacy”.

As part of the five year NHS funding settlement announced last month, the government gave some indication that other health budgets – for education, public health, and capital – would be protected in coming years, and that adult social care would be better funded. 

Asked about these commitments, Mr Stevens indicated there would be “trade offs” if these were not followed through by government. He said: “We’re going to have to connect the goals that we want to see in the NHS long term plan with the wherewithal to do it.”

He said: “Capital and workforce clearly are integral to what the health service needs to do… We [also] need to have a precise shared understanding of what it means when we say that adult social care will be supported such that not only are people being looked after appropriately, but [in a way that] it’s not going to put pressure on the NHS.” He said supporting public health linked to a wider public policy debate, not only local government budgets.

Exclusive: Stevens sets out 10 year plan priorities