THE chief executive of the Royal Bolton Hospital has been named as one of the most inspiring women in British healthcare.

Dr Jackie Bene was awarded the accolade by the Health Service Journal (HSJ), for leading “with a calmness that inspires confidence”.

Dr Bene, a consultant physician, first came to Bolton in 1998 as clinical lead for older people’s services and became medical director in 2008.

She guided the NHS trust through a turbulent two years and eventually got the top job as chief executive in February.

Unlike most chief executives, Dr Bene still carries out weekly ward rounds, as well as running the hospital.

The chief executive is modest when it comes to talking about her achievements but says she hopes the HSJ awards will inspire other women to go for top roles in the NHS. Dr Bene said: “The idea behind the HSJ awards is to encourage other women to go into leadership roles.

“I was very pleased and flattered to be named as one of those women.

“I think there is gap between the number of men and women in leadership roles in the NHS and I would like to see more women up there.

“I never wanted to give up being a doctor because I knew I would miss the contact with patients.

“I still enjoy talking to patients and the challenge of working out what’s wrong with them.

“It’s also good to still be part of a clinical team.”

The HSJ judges said Dr Bene was a “rarity”. They added: “As a medical professional who is serving as a trust chief executive, Jackie is a rarity. Rarer still is the fact that she continues to practise clinically, holding two sessions each week in her role as consultant in geriatric and acute medicine.

“The trust has been through difficult times, but Jackie is said never to have lost the confidence of the staff she leads. She leads with a calmness that inspires confidence.

“She also has an ability to communicate at all levels within the organisation and is a highly supportive leader.”