We’re all being asked to do more within our own organisations in a tough financial climate while trying to think more about the importance of broader systems leadership. The NHS needs strong and effective leaders who are able to strategically plan and look ahead while taking the immediate needs of their staff and patients into account.

But while talent and potential in the system is ample, turnover in the provider chief executive role remains high. A report by The King’s Fund found that the average tenure for a provider chief executive is just 18 months and the pipeline of candidates for these key roles has not been wide enough. Our organisations came together to provide much needed support to colleagues with the potential to take on these roles, giving them – and the wider system – the highest chance of success and ensuring a rejuvenated pipeline of much needed top talent.

The Aspiring chief executive programme aims to identify and develop existing executive board members with the potential to become trust chief executives. We have worked closely together from programme creation and design to delivery and evaluation, with NHS Improvement funding the programme, NHS Providers chairing the programme board and the NHS Leadership Academy responsible for design and delivery.

Now three years and two cohorts down the line, it fills us with great pride to see the impact the programme has had on participants, with 36% already in chief executive positions. For those yet to take up a chief executive role, we’re confident that the programme has equipped them with the tools and skills to be ready to embrace this opportunity when it arises.

This report brings together the perspectives of a number of people who have benefited from the programme. It explores their experiences, the impact the programme has had on them as individuals, as well as on their colleagues and the system more generally.

Despite the challenges they face, many NHS chief executives believe it’s a huge honour and a privilege to be in this role. We hope the Aspiring chief executive programme continues to facilitate the development, progression and confidence of these vital leaders.