Andy McKeon, managing director of health, Audit Commission

NHS finances may on the face of it be back on a more even keel, but Andy McKeon’s influence is growing, not least due to his annual serving of ale - the Auditor’s Local Evaluation - which is never warm and frothy. As the NHS moves into a period of tighter spending, the commission’s assessment of how trusts and primary care trusts manage their resources is set to become ever more important.

Before moving to the Audit Commission, Mr McKeon was Department of Health policy director. But this former poacher turned gamekeeper has not let his own involvement in major policy reforms such as patient choice, competition and payment by results colour his biting critiques of their implementation.

A highlight this year was his joint report with the Healthcare Commission on the progress of those reforms. Entitled Is the Treatment Working?, his answer, “not yet, at least”, has already led to politicians rethinking the limits of choice in driving up quality of healthcare provision.