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The NHS's top trust chief executives in 2017

Standout trends in this year’s rankings include the prevalence of the multi-trust leader, the influence of outstanding CQC ratings and the rise of women chief executives.

Three significant trends emerge from this year’s HSJ ranking of the NHS’s top 50 chief executives: how the top leaders are increasingly running more than one organisation; how influential Care Quality Commission ratings have become; and how women may soon come to dominate the top ranks of the provider sector.

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HSJ’s annual analysis of the NHS’s top trust chief executives, held in association with Korn Ferry, was judged by some of the service’s leading figures. They included CQC chief inspector of hospitals Sir Mike Richards, NHS England medical director Sir Bruce Keogh and NHS Improvement director of nursing Ruth May. The chief executives were judged on three main criteria: the performance of their trust; their contribution to the wider health economy or the NHS; and their personal example.

The most striking factor in the 2017 ranking of chief executives was the trend for the best to be leading more than one organisation. Seven of the top eight have either successfully taken on a second trust, are doing so or about to do so – Basildon’s Claire Panniker is in charge of three and at least one other among the leading pack expects to be leading a group of four or more in the near future.

Ipswich’s Nick Hulme and South Warwickshire’s Glen Burley both find themselves jumping into the top 50 on the back of successes which has seen them given a second trust to steward.

Of course, this widespread experiment in extended leadership could come to a sticky end – indeed such is the range of different approaches being adopted that some are bound not to succeed. But for the present, the best leaders in the system are having to learn how to manage groups rather than just single organisations.

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