Lesley Watts, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital Foundation Trust

Lesley Watts has spent 40 years in the NHS, first as a midwife, then as a manager and now as a chief executive. It’s fair to say she was faced with a challenge when she took on the top job at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital FT in September 2015. The organisation had just merged with West Middlesex Hospital Trust, but both constituent bodies were challenged – each was ranked as requiring improvement by the Care Quality Commission.

Two years on, and Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and West Middlesex Hospital have both been ranked as good by inspectors. The trust has one of the lowest mortality rates in the country and is in the top 10 for performance against the four hour accident and emergency target and for 62 day cancer referrals.

On use of resources, meanwhile, the organisation has a CQC ranking of outstanding. It is in the top 10 per cent of trusts for financial efficiency, with the 14th lowest costs in the country.

Lesley’s leadership is said to have successfully brought together two differing and complex cultures into one united workforce. In the most recent staff survey, there were significant gains in the motivation and engagement of staff, such that the trust ranks in the top 20 per cent in the country for staff engagement. Notably, nearly 80 per cent of those surveyed said they would recommend the organisation as a place to work.

Said the individual nominating her for this award: “Lesley helps her staff make miracles happen in the NHS.”

Read a detailed case study about this project at HSJ Solutions


  • Yvonne Ormston, North East Ambulance Service FT – HIGHLY COMMENDED
  • Carolyn Regan, West London Health Trust
  • Chris Burghes, Royal Free Charity
  • Emma Latimer, Hull Clinical Commissioning Group
  • Kathryn Magson, Herts Valleys CCG
  • Mark Axcell, Dudley and Walsall Mental Health Partnership Trust

Winners of 2018 HSJ Awards revealed