The NHS will lose more and more managers to the demands of the job

The resignation of Chris Spry, one of Scotland's most prominent health service managers, is a clear sign of the kind of pressure that NHS leaders have been under for some time. Mr Spry's wake-up call came with the death of his brother and the realisation that he wanted to spend more time with his family and less time worrying about targets and mergers.

The lure of the private sector for people like Chris Spry is not money, it is about getting a life. This week we see other senior managers in the spotlight over workplace problems, one suspended, one on sick leave. For most senior managers it is not the workload itself that takes its toll, it is being in everyone's firing line - staff, patients, health authorities, regional offices, ministers. It is the expectation that they will always carry the can, even becoming scapegoats when things happen over which they have little control. It is the relentless pressure of being all things to all people and with little prospect of a pat on the back.

Even a six-figure salary doesn't necessarily compensate for the lost sleep. And while the role of an independent consultant may not be a breeze, who wouldn't seriously consider swapping the daily struggle of trying to deliver on strategy and policy for long lunches discussing the strategy and policy? In recent months HSJ has drawn attention to the toll the demands of the 'modern' NHS is taking on managers who still have a real vocation, who still believe in the service and who love their work but who simply realise that they haven't got the energy or inclination to do the job any longer.

It will not be a surprise if the more innovative and dynamic managers like Chris Spry opt for private sector work - or for 'modernising' jobs slightly out of the firing line. They are right, after years of commitment, to put themselves and their families first and get a life.