Our weekly guide e to healthcare's most influential people - No 49

Published: 06/12/2001, Volume III, No. 5784 Page 20 21

Name: Baroness Noakes (aka Sheila Masters) Job: Conservative health spokesperson in the Lords Style: 'Formidable accountant and quangocrat', partner at consultants KPMG who has chaired the Bank of England's non-executive directors' committee. As NHS finance director, was 'perhaps more than anyone responsible for making the Conservatives'health reforms work'. The baroness will soon be laying into the present government's reforms. 'Outspoken, abrasive and confrontational', she doesn't suffer fools gladly or 'hide her contempt for the shortcomings of NHS managers'. But one excolleague says 'she was fierce but she was good'and 'brought the accountancy side of the NHS up to the 20th century'.

Background: Seconded to the Treasury from KPMG between 1979-81, then to the Department of Health as NHS finance director from 1988-91. One of the few senior women in the field, she was also appointed from outside the NHS. In those days, it was said that IHSM stood not for the Institute of Health Services Management, but the snappier 'I Hate Sheila Masters'. Became a member of the NHS Executive's now-defunct policy board. A member of the Treasury's public services productivity panel, she has worked on reports on outpatient services and managing the NHS estate.

Former president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England.

Future prospects: Expect her to give short shrift to the Shifting the Balance shake-up when the NHS Reform Bill reaches the Lords, now she's the manager's friend. 'Burdens on managers will be increased in the short term for little or no long-term gain, ' she warned recently.