What do we know of the chief executives who will be running the new strategic health authorities from next week?

What do we know of the chief executives who will be running the new strategic health authorities from next week?

On one hand they are broadly familiar names from old SHAs and the centre, with only Mark Britnell making the step up from the acute sector. They are markedly different from each other in background, style and outlook. It is a unique and fascinating insight into the personalities that will shape the NHS towards 2010.

Some common themes emerge. They tend to emphasise tough love - a mixture of honesty, empathy and accountability, that is in turn the hallmark of their current boss, Sir Ian Carruthers. Old-style performance management is out - freedom with accountability is in. There is also the issue of stability and long service. Despite being, on the whole, very competitive people, most highlight the value of managers being embedded in organisations rather than pasted on top. In turn, that means there is some concern about the career-wrenching effect of reorganisation.

There will be different forces in play and sometimes pulling in different directions. As we report this week, demand management provokes disagreements between chief executives. Dr Barbara Hakin, from a background in primary care, says she is 'really nervous' about how much is 'being pinned on managing demand. At the same time the policy is playing a central role in the recovery plan for London, overseen by David Nicholson.

Meanwhile Mike Farrar, leading the North West, says clinical engagement in primary care trusts has 'gone backwards' and suggests that the professional executive committee should take on a role similar to local government overview and scrutiny committees.

Last year, the Commons health select committee warned that reorganisation would put progress on reform into reverse for at least 18 months. The work of these 10 individuals in the coming months will determine whether that fate can be avoided.