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 the NHS’s 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.


Applications for the programme are now closed. We are currently running the third cohort of the highly successful Aspiring Chief Executive programme. This is a collaboration between the NHS Leadership Academy, NHS Improvement and NHS Providers. It forms part of a fully resourced, strategic response to the challenge of how we identify, develop and deploy our most senior leaders. Together, these three organisations have designed and delivered a programme to prepare those with the potential to become chief executives in the next 12-24 months. As well as providing exceptional development, this challenging programme will also assess readiness to take up these demanding roles. Those participants who demonstrate their readiness by the end of the programme will gain the NHS Leadership Academy Chief Executive Award.



The design is underpinned by wide support across the health system and input from serving chief executives, chairs and system partners.

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.


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


To date, 10 of the previous 27 participants have already been appointed to lead trusts. To hear more about the programme from some of those who have been through our first two cohorts and gone onto step up into chief executive roles, read their blogs here.


Participant experience:



Throughout the programme, participants: 


  • develop a strong and sustaining network of colleagues already in or aspiring to chief executive roles within your cohort and from the two cohorts who have already completed the programme


  • 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 Improvement or NHS Providers


  • 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.

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