The broad conclusion among HSJ’s contacts is there is no shoo-in but the clear front runners are: Simon Stevens, architect of New Labour’s health reforms and president for global health at US giant UnitedHealth; NHS Confederation chief executive Mike Farrar; and KPMG head of global health and former Department of Health commissioning chief Mark Britnell.
All are strong candidates but one thing makes them stand out from the supposed direction of travel in healthcare leadership – none are clinicians. Nor, indeed, are most of those on the longer list of potential candidates.
It is far from essential that the NHS England chief be a clinician – but it would signal a stronger and broader base of healthcare leadership if there were a greater number of clinicians vying for the NHS’s top job.
An important step on this journey is to give the clinical leaders who are making a difference in today’s NHS a higher profile. This week HSJ launches its Clinical Leaders list – our estimation of the 100 doctors, nurses and other professionals who have the biggest influence on policy, innovation or service transformation.
These 100 individuals show times are changing and that clinicians are becoming more active in leading the NHS - hopefully bringing to an end a period of polarised debate and reductive argument, and deepening the well of talent at all levels of leadership.
Sir David’s replacement may not be a clinician, but their successor probably will be – and their name probably features on our list. Any guesses?