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

Published on: 13 Apr 2022

A chief executive with less than four years’ experience has been selected as the number one CEO in HSJ’s eighth annual ranking of the service’s top provider trust chiefs

The full list can be viewed here

Eugine Yafele follows in the footsteps of long-serving iconic NHS chief executives such as Dame Marianne Griffiths, Sir Andrew Morris, and Sir David Dalton in taking the number one spot. But the judges did not view Mr Yafele’s relative lack of experience as a bar to his pre-eminence.

The former mental health nurse was appointed Dorset HealthCare University Foundation Trust chief executive in December 2018, having joined the trust in 2014 and previously served as its deputy CEO. He has a master of business administration qualification from Warwick Business School and a degree in financial economics.

Under his leadership, the trust’s Care Quality Commission rating was increased to “outstanding” in 2019.

Among the initiatives Mr Yafele introduced at the trust was a reverse mentoring scheme. His mentor was a band four domestic supervisor.

The Dorset CEO was confirmed as chair of the South West NHS People Board in 2021 and, in October of that year, was included in HSJ’s list of the 50 most influential Black, Asian and minority ethnic people in health.

In January 2022, he was selected to replace the retiring Robert Woolley as the CEO of University Hospitals Bristol and Weston FT — in a rare example of a chief executive transferring from the mental health to the acute sector.

Mr Yafele is also the first chief executive from a minority ethnic background to lead the top 50, which is selected by a large panel of leading healthcare figures, including NHS Confederation chair Lord Victor Adebowale, NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson, and Health Education England CEO Navina Evans.

In second place comes Derbyshire Community Health Services FT CEO Tracy Allen.

Ms Allen first rose to prominence when she was included in the Department of Health’s 2010 top leaders list while working as provider services director for Derby County Primary Care Trust.

As PCTs were scrapped, Ms Allen led the creation of Derbyshire Community Health Services as a stand-alone trust. She made HSJ’s Top Chief Executives list in 2015 and 2016.

In 2019, the organisation achieved an “outstanding” CQC rating, which it has held on to ever since. Among the aspects of the trust’s performance praised by the CQC was its “insight” programme, which involved leaders visiting wards and speaking with staff, and the outcome of these visits then being recorded by an electronic business intelligence tool.

As the pandemic broke, Ms Allen was one of a group of chief executives to say publicly that efficiency targets should be relaxed. She tweeted: “We’re putting unnecessary stress on people trying to carry on with a parallel universe of business as usual 20/21 planning.”

White men in the minority

Ms Allen is one of 24 women – all white – in the top 50. There are also two men from a minority ethnic background, Mr Yafele and Owen Williams from Northern Care Alliance FT. This means white male CEOs are – just – in the minority for the first time since the ranking’s creation in 2014.

However, the number of CEOs from a minority ethnic background has halved since 2021. Raj Jain and Patricia Miller, who were both in last year’s ranking, have each moved on to run an integrated care system (Mr Jain as a chairMs Miller as a chief executive).

This year the judges selected a top six from within the 50. As well as Mr Yafele and Ms Allen, this includes HSJ’s Top Chief Executives stalwarts Glen Burley (joint CEO of George Eliot Hospital Trust, South Warwickshire FT and Wye Valley Trust), Angela Hillery (joint CEO of Northamptonshire Healthcare FT and Leicestershire Partnership Trust) and Sir Jim Mackey (Northumbria Healthcare FT).

Arguably the most surprising inclusion in the top six is East London FT CEO Paul Calaminus, who jumps straight into the upper reaches of the top 50, having not featured before. Mr Calaminus has led ELFT since March 2021, having previously been deputy CEO. The trust was rated “outstanding” by the CQC for the third time this January.

Nineteen CEOs disappear from the rankings

One of the most striking features of the 2022 list is the amount of churn — 19 chiefs who appeared in the 2021 ranking are absent from the 2022 one.

Along with Ms Miller and Mr Jain, last year’s number one CEO, Rob Webster, has taken up the reins at an ICS. A number of leading CEOs, including Dame Marianne, Dame Alwen Williams and Michael Wilson, have retired or are retiring soon. Others, such as Tom Cahill and Mark Cubbon, have taken on a national role.

Notable drop outs from this year’s list are Cally Palmer and Claire Murdoch, the national directors for cancer and mental health respectively. Dame Cally, who is also chief of The Royal Marsden FT, had a sometimes controversial year, as did Royal Wolverhampton Trust (and more recently Walsall Healthcare Trust) chief David Loughton who is also absent from the 2022 ranking.

A number of otherwise well-regarded CEOs fell from the top 50, or were not considered in the first place, because they were considered “shouters”, a style of management the judges believed was well past its sell by date.

Of the 19 CEOs joining the top 50, 10 run organisations rated “requires improvement” by the CQC – suggesting the regulator’s judgement is not quite the determinant of admired leadership it has been in previous top 50s.

The new entrants include the CEOs of two of the service’s most challenged trusts: United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust (Andrew Morgan), and Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust (Matthew Trainer).

Mid and South Essex CEO Clare Panniker, who had fallen from the top end of the rankings after a long run, makes a return despite her three-site trust still being rated “requires improvement”.

There is only two doctors among the Top 50, King’s College Hospital FT’s Clive Kay and Richard Jenkins, curently running both Barnsley Hospital FT and The Rotherham FT, in contrast to many former nurses, including the numbers one and two CEOs. Of the NHS’s 10 largest trusts, as measured by the number of staff, three of those with substantive CEOs are not led by chief executives included in the list.

Eight of the 50 top chief executives appearing in the 2022 list also featured in the first list from 2014 — though not necessarily running the same trust. They are: Tracy Bullock, Sir Mike Deegan, Julian Hartley, Matthew Kershaw, Sir Jim Mackey, Sarah-Jane Marsh, Clare Panniker, and Jacqueline Totterdell.