HSJ’s list of the top chief executives in the NHS was judged by some of the service’s leading figures


  • Alastair McLellan, editor, HSJ – chair
  • Lord Victor Adebowale, chair, NHS Confederation
  • Prof Áine Burns, vice president, Royal College of Physicians
  • Ben Clover, bureau chief, HSJ
  • Navina Evans, chief executive, Health Education England
  • Beccy Fenton, partner and UK head of health & human services, KPMG 
  • Dame Marianne Griffiths, chief executive, University Hospitals Sussex Foundation Trust
  • Chris Hopson, chief executive, NHS Providers
  • Nikki Kanani, medical director of primary care, NHS England and NHS Improvement
  • Habib Naqvi, director, NHS Race and Health Observatory
  • Sir David Sloman, chief operating officer, NHS England
  • Lynda Thomas, chief executive, Macmillan Cancer Support
  • Michael Wilson, former chief executive, Surrey and Sussex Healthcare Trust
  • Robert Woolley, outgoing chief executive, University Hospitals Bristol and Weston Foundation Trust
  • Sean Duggan, director, NHS Confederation’s Mental Health Network was unable to attend the in-person judging session but contributed suggestions.

Sir David was involved in deciding the top 50 but did not take part in choosing the top six.

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The judges were asked to bear in mind the following criteria for the top 50.

  • The performance of the chief executive during the pandemic, including periods of recovery between waves. We have looked for chief executives who have steered their organisations through these difficult times, including supporting staff and ensuring patients get the best care possible given the constraints trusts will have been facing. We also looked at other aspects of leadership, while acknowledging the ability to demonstrate these may have been impacted by the pandemic. This covers chief executives’ leadership style and behaviours, including their approach to mentoring and developing more junior staff; encouraging inclusive leadership; how they work with their board, both executives and non-executives; and their standing among their peers and personal qualities.
  • The performance of the organisation they lead, given the circumstances it is in. Many of the usual metrics are skewed this year as trusts have struggled to maintain access and financial controls have been replaced by different funding mechanisms. However, we have considered the results of the staff survey and any Care Quality Commission reports.
  • The contribution the chief executive has made to the wider health and social care system. This might be through leading on important projects, either nationally or locally. Examples include taking a leading role within an ICS; taking on a national role such as lead for an area of care; or spearheading local improvements. We have sought chief executives who are working for the benefit of the system as a whole rather than only protecting the interests of their own organisations.

White men form the minority of HSJ’s Top Chief Executives