Published on:

3rd August 2020

New University Hospital Association Chair ready to lead change

The University Hospital Association (UHA) has elected Robert Woolley, Chief Executive of University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust (UHBW), as its new Chair.

With extensive leadership experience at UHBW, Robert is well equipped to advocate on behalf of university hospitals. Since he took over as Chief Executive of University Hospitals Bristol in 2010, UHB has become the first Trust to be rated Outstanding twice by the Care Quality Commission after a previous rating of Requires Improvement. During Robert’s tenure the Trust has gone from strength to strength, acquiring Biomedical Research Centre status in partnership with the University of Bristol and maintaining a positive financial position every year. Most recently, he oversaw a merger between University Hospitals Bristol and Weston Area Health NHS Trust, bringing together a new Trust which will serve a core local population of more than 500,000 and provide specialist care to people across the South West.

Alongside his position as Chief Executive of UHBW, Robert is Co-Executive Lead for Healthier Together, the Sustainability and Transformation Partnership for Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire, as well as a director of the West of England Academic Health Science Network. Before moving to Bristol, he spent nine years at Barts and the London NHS Trust (now Barts Health) in a range of senior planning and operational roles. Robert has recently been awarded an honorary doctorate of Laws from the Faculty of Health and Applied Sciences at the University of the West of England in recognition of his significant contributions to the National Health Service over a career spanning thirty years.

Of his new role, Robert Woolley said:

“University hospitals have risen to the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic and clearly have a decisive role to play in the future of the NHS. They develop the existing and future NHS workforce, play a key role in clinical research and deliver cutting-edge, evidence-based care.

“The current public health crisis provides a unique opportunity to rethink how we deliver healthcare. Clinical research and healthcare training will be critical in sustaining and improving patient care. It is therefore only right that university hospitals should be at the heart of discussions over the future of the NHS. Our collective expertise and experience must be drawn upon as we emerge from the pandemic.”

He succeeds Bob Bell, Chief Executive of the Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust, who added:

“I have been proud to have chaired UHA at a time when university hospitals have played a central role in managing this public health crisis. From mapping the Covid-19 genome to caring for critically ill patients, university hospitals have shown themselves to be resilient throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

“A crisis situation creates opportunities for reflection and reinvention in ways that are rarely possible during ordinary times. We must not forget that many problems in the NHS, such as tightened budgets and workforce instability, predate the pandemic. They will have affected our ability to respond to this pandemic and it is therefore paramount that university hospitals continue to engage with Government and the wider healthcare sector to drive change.”


Notes to editors:

1. The University Hospital Association is the key leadership body across the UK in promoting UK university hospital trusts in their tripartite mission of service, teaching and research. For further information about the work of UHA, see
2. For more information on this press release, contact Lucy Chislett, Communications Officer, at or on 020 7419 5427.