Aspiring Chief Executive programme


Applications for the programme are currently closed.  Register your interest for future cohorts here.

Introduction Text:
The role of the chief executive in health care has never been more important. How we appoint to such posts – and help our chief executives to be successful ‘in role’ – is one of our most important leadership issues. As the health systems evolves and new models of care emerge, chief executives who can successfully lead provider organisations and collaborate in the transformation of care are key.

Our highly successful Aspiring Chief Executive programme has been designed to deliver an exceptional development and challenging programme to prepare those with the potential to become chief executives in the next 12-24 months. Those participants who demonstrate their readiness to become chief executives by the end of the programme will gain the NHS Leadership Academy Chief Executive Award.

The programme doesn’t just aim to develop leaders who can lead their own organisation to a high standard. It also places clear emphasis on working within a complex and increasingly integrated health economy. It will provide you with the knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviours to play a full role in reshaping care systems to provide new, sustainable models of care based on patient need. The design of the programme is underpinned by wide support across the health system and input from serving chief executives, chairs and system partners.

This is a challenging programme that requires commitment from you and your sponsoring trust/organisation. There is no guarantee of a chief executive post at the end of it, but the benefits of the programme are clear.

To date, nearly 60 percent of the programme’s graduates have been appointed to lead provider trusts – and two of the current cohort of 14, who are due to graduate in December, have already secured chief executive roles. A summary of the full impact of the programme can be read here and to hear from some of those who have been through the programme and gone on to step up into chief executive roles, read their case studies here.


You will:

  • develop a strong and sustaining network of colleagues already in or aspiring to chief executive roles within your cohort and from our programme alumni
  • meet and work with key players across the system and have the opportunity to debate policy and approach with them
  • receive mentorship from senior members of NHS England
  • receive talent management support in navigating your next career move
  • enhance your ability to engage with patients, service users, carers and families of all backgrounds, enabling person-centred care in the local environment
  • develop your ability to contribute effectively to system leadership, to manage the tension between leading your own organisation and being an effective system player, and to build on partnerships and local system working in the light of national trends and policy
  • gain a full appreciation of the statutory and regulatory duties associated with an accountable officer role and a solid understanding of the regulatory and fiscal environment, and corporate governance
  • gain real insight into the demands on a chief executive, including leading the development of strategy and organisational culture, managing an effective executive team, and navigating the key relationship with your chair
  • be challenged to show your capacity to create a productive and inclusive culture for staff, irrespective of their background
  • develop a critical awareness of your personal approach to leadership and the impact you have, defining your personal style, behaviour, and attitudes and readiness to lead change
  • be challenged to understand your biases, blind spots and attitude to diversity and to demonstrate how you will lead actively to promote inclusion
  • demonstrate your capacity to lead transformation in how healthcare is provided.
Quote / Testimonial:

"There is real value in opening yourself up to reflect on the leader you are, the impact you currently have, and embracing the leader you want to become. I know the experience I have had will make me a better chief executive and, at the end of the day, that’s what our patients and staff deserve."

Cara Charles-Barks
Chief Executive,
Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust