Simon Stevens has been named incoming chief executive of NHS England, following the departure of Sir David Nicholson in April next year.

Stevens, one-time health adviser to Tony Blair, currently heads up the global health division of US-based insurer UnitedHealth.

Also formerly an advisor to the Department of Health, Stevens is certainly no stranger to the NHS, having racked up more than 10 years' experience in the sector, including stints as director of primary care and manager at london hospitals.

"It is hugely welcome that Simon Stevens brings with him experience of commissioning and working with clinical commissioners," said Charles Alessi, Interim Chair and Michael Dixon, Interim President, speaking on behalf of NHS Clinical Commissioners.

"The NHS faces significant challenges and we look forward to working with him to to ensure that the commissioning system is aligned around a common goal that means the NHS delivers the highest possible quality care as efficiently as possible".

According to the Telegraph, Stevens has agreed to a £20,000 pay cut, accepting an annual salary of £189,000 compared to the £211,000 drawn by Sir David, who was reportedly criticised over his expenses claims and use of first-class travel.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has welcomed the appointment, noting Stevens' "extraordinary reputation in the UK and abroad as a reformer and an innovator," and that "his passion for our universal health service free at the point of use goes back many years, but he will add international expertise as we face the challenges ahead". 

"He will make a key contribution to the two biggest challenges facing the NHS right now: how to raise standards of care and also be financially sustainable," Hunt said.

Support for his appointment has also come from across the Atlantic. 

“The challenges the NHS faces today are large, as they are in many nations, but much larger is the potential for the NHS to be a model for the world for the pursuit of health care’s ‘triple aim’: better care for all individuals, better health for populations, and lower cost through continual improvement, [and] Simon is superbly equipped to help the NHS realise that potential," Forbes reported Donald Berwick, a former administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services who is running for governor of Massachusetts, as commenting.

In a statement, Stevens noted that “the next five years are going to be extremely challenging for the NHS, but compassionate high quality care for all is as vital as ever".

“It will be a privilege to lead NHS England – at a time when the stakes have never been higher – because I believe in the NHS, and because I believe that a broad new partnership of patients, carers, staff and the public can together chart a successful future for our health service,” he said.