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NHS Leadership Academy
Executive Search


What were the reasons for setting up Executive Search?
The NHS has a long-established history of using commercial executive search firms when making board level appointments, and it was clear there was no reason why this support couldn’t be provided to a very high standard from within the NHS.  Moreover, there were a number of factors which meant that such a service would have some significant advantages when compared to that from an external provider, in terms of the ability to build the best possible candidate field, bring in-depth insight to the selection and appointment process and to save the system and taxpayer considerable sums of money. 
As part of the NHS system – are we really independent and objective?
The research we did before establishing the Executive Search team indicates that one of the things trusts most valued about the support they can receive from commercial search firms is the independence and ‘distance’ from the NHS that the latter provide. This means that we can operate with freedom on a trust’s behalf when undertaking a search and are well placed to offer genuine challenge at all stages of what should be a robust process. All of these factors provide reassurance to a hiring trust, that the best possible field has been assembled and that the process has legitimacy and fulfils all reasonable expectations regarding rigour and thoroughness.
Do we charge VAT?  
Being part of the NHS and working with other NHS organisations means that we do not charge VAT for our services.
Do we do work outside of the provider sector?
The majority of our work has been in the provider setting, however we have carried out work for Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), Arm’s length bodies (ALBs) and the 3rd Sector. As we continue to grow and opportunities arise, we are broadening our work to include other parts of the system and are very open to discussion on the subject.
Can the process be bespoke to our needs?
From past experience, we would always recommend our full process to give you the best opportunity of successfully recruiting into your post. However, we are always happy to work with clients to design effective bespoke selection processes to meet their needs.
Can we search outside of the NHS?
Yes - the appointments we focus on have tended to mean that panels want to see a short list made up of people already familiar with and proven within the NHS, but this is not always the case. While we are set up to be able to make the most of the talented senior leaders that are already working in the NHS, all of us have ourselves made the move from the private sector and are fully committed to the idea that there are considerable benefits for the NHS in appointing senior leaders from the private and third sectors or elsewhere in the public sector from the UK and abroad. Alongside our ability to undertake appropriately targeted and focused search from scratch in support of this, we also work closely with the pre-selected senior leaders who were part of the NHS Leadership Academy’s NHS Executive Fast Track programme, which was specifically designed to help non-NHS leader’s transition effectively into executive board positions in the NHS.
Do you engage with participants from leadership development programmes?
As part of the NHS Leadership Academy, we have a unique and privileged position at the heart of the NHS’s senior level talent identification and leadership development work and we are an integral part of the current national level talent management and succession planning work in response to the Smith and Rose Reviews. We work in partnership with NHS Improvement (NHSI), NHS England and Health Education England (HEE) colleagues, which has a particular focus on executive development, support and deployment. However whilst having access and knowledge of these individuals we would only approach those who we feel have the required skills and experience for the particular role we are recruiting to.

Which roles do you appoint to?
We appoint to all posts at board level as well as chair recruitment.  We have also recruited to some NED roles and adhoc board level posts for the 3rd sector.
How long does a standard process take?
Our standard process of the initial briefing meeting with the client, writing and collating the advert and candidate briefing pack, advertising and search period, proving detailed sift of all applications and longlisting meeting, first stage interviews with ourselves and providing detailed reports for each candidate, shortlist meeting, candidate feedback and briefings, psychometrics (if required) and final panel interview takes between 10 and 12 weeks.
How do you assess candidates?
We build the candidate field through the following ways:
  • Formal executive search/headhunting
  • Networking/sourcing via discussions with, as appropriate:
    • individual contacts and colleagues within NHS England/Area Teams, NHSI, NHS Providers and others, all of whom we are familiar and work closely with whether explicitly as part of a search or as partners on other programmes of work;
    • other contacts and colleagues within the Academy and elsewhere across the NHS;
  • Intelligence from regional colleagues responsible for local level board support and leadership development
  • A review of recently completed relevant projects
  • A review of our comprehensive database
  • Collaboration with colleagues who run the national senior leadership inclusion programmes, to ensure that the diversity of the field is maximised
  • Advertising (although we expect the appointed candidate to come through search activity)