University of Hospitals Leicester trust chief executive John Adler explains why the organisation’s chief operating officer is a role for a high-calibre leader ready to make their mark

This Q&A is sponsored by University Hospitals of Leicester trust, which is advertising for a new chief operating officer. Read about the role here.

John Adler’s career in the NHS began in 1985 as a national management trainee. He worked at Bexley Hospital (mental health) The Royal Marsden, South Thames Regional Office and St Peter’s Hospital, Chertsey, where he held his first executive-level post as director of corporate development.

In 1998, he became chief executive of Sheffield Children’s  Trust, following which he was chief executive at Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals Trust for 11 years; at SWBH he led the work to develop the new Midland Metropolitan Hospital, currently under construction.

John has been in his current post as chief executive of University Hospitals of Leicester Trust since January 2013. His particular passion is staff engagement, having pioneered the award-winning Listening into Action approach in the NHS.


1. Why this job?

UHL is one of the very largest trusts in England, operating from three acute sites and a variety of other locations. It therefore represents a great opportunity for an experienced senior operational manager to make their mark. Although we face some familiar challenges, we are not that far from being where we need to be on the key operational standards.

Our biggest challenge is emergency care performance, but a COO with a systematic approach to improvement and the right level of tenacity should be able to build on what we have done so far to achieve the required result.

Leicestershire is a great place to live and work, having the choice of city living without urban sprawl or a wide range of beautiful villages near at hand without a long commute. It is also very central, so easily accessible to all areas the country – London is 70 minutes away by train.


2. Why this trust?

UHL has a great culture – it is full of extremely dedicated people who really want to do their best for patients. This makes it a lovely place to work. This culture extends to the board and the executive team – the latter is the most collegiate that the CEO has experienced, which is very important when the team is, as elsewhere, frequently operating under significant pressure. UHL has everything to play for – it has enormous critical mass, is clinically very sound, and has a clear vision about what it is we are trying to achieve over the next few years, none of which is fantasy.


3. How will the role advance the candidates’ career?

Given the scale of the trust, this post is right at the top of the operational management hierarchy in the NHS. The COO will need to tackle a range of issues, but none of them are undoable. The role therefore represents a great opportunity for a really high calibre leader to make their mark.

Read the full details of the job at