National director of improvement and efficiency, DH (2010 ranking: 39)

The phony war is now over, and the NHS’s fight for £20bn efficiency savings by 2015 has begun in earnest. With the stakes on the quality, innovation, productivity and prevention drive at least as high as those on the government’s NHS reforms, QIPP “tsar” Jim Easton has the chance of greater visibility than any DH official besides Sir David Nicholson and David Flory.

Mr Easton - a former hospitals and SHA chief executive - has not shunned visibility. In direct, sometimes confrontational, language, he argues the QIPP “crisis” can help the NHS overcome its “structure of interests” and achieve a reform as profound as the 1960s reorganisation of mental health.

But, with nearly all easy savings now won, the coming year will be the toughest test yet of Mr Easton’s contention that the NHS can find better, cheaper models of care.