• Simon Stevens says at “Southern Health, patients and families have been let down and public confidence undermined”
  • Follows Katrina Percy resigning as chief executive but retaining salary
  • NHS England chief executive says NHS “can’t justify examples of what can come across as self-serving behaviour”
  • Mr Stevens warns it is “critical” NHS fixes its finances this year

Simon Stevens has said that events at Southern Health Foundation Trust have “undermined” public confidence, in response to a question about departing chief executives.

The NHS England chief executive made the comments in an interview with HSJ comment editor Andy Cowper for his Health Policy Insight website. Mr Stevens also said the government’s planned NHS spending for 2017 to 2020 did not meet what he had “proposed”.

Simon Stevens

Simon Stevens

Simon Stevens: ‘It’s critical we do everything we can to sort our finances this year’

Mr Stevens was asked: “Taking recent controversies at Southern Health, St George’s, Staffordshire and elsewhere, should trust boards give departing chief executives big pay offs?”

It follows Katrina Percy resigning as chief executive of Southern Health last month, claiming “ongoing personal media attention” had made her role “untenable”. She had been under huge pressure since the publication in December of a report by the audit firm Mazars, which highlighted failures at the trust to investigate and learn from patient deaths. 

However, the terms of Ms Percy’s departure have attracted criticism. Southern Health will continue to employ her in a new capacity advising GPs, and she will continue to receive her chief executive salary, which is listed in the trust’s annual report as between £185,000 and £190,000. It has also emerged that Ms Percy was the only candidate for the newly created role.

Mr Stevens responded to the question: “No: sadly some of these situations have not been handled well, and at Southern Health, patients and families have been let down and public confidence undermined.

“It’s true that there has never been a more complex time to be a health service leader. But that can’t justify examples of what can come across to other far less well paid NHS staff as self-serving behaviour.

“And managers won’t be able to tackle excessive agency pay rates for other disciplines if management ‘interims’ are hired at inflated multiples. While there are now national controls to stop this, it’d be better if they never had to be used.”

Mr Stevens was also asked about NHS funding. He said while the NHS had got the funding asked for in the Five Year Forward View in the first and last year of the spending review period, very small uplifts in the middle years meant it was “critical” the NHS fixed its finances this year.

“As we’ve said previously, the then chancellor’s deficit reduction target meant we didn’t get our proposed funding profile for 2017-18, 2018-19, and 2019-20,” he said.

“So as things stand, the middle years of the spending review are obviously going to be tougher than what we originally asked for following the Five Year Forward View.

“That’s why it’s so critical we do everything we can to sort our finances this year, ahead of next year and the year after.”

He said the NHS had not “maxed out on efficiency” and there was “ethical imperative” on health service staff to save money to reinvest in improved care.

Southern Health told HSJ it was unable to comment.