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Our Executive Group

Meet our Chief Executive, Simon Gillespie OBE, and the rest of our Executive Group members.

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Simon Gillespie OBE

Chief Executive

Simon Gillespie OBESimon joined the BHF in 2013, following seven years as Chief Executive of the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society. He has a family connection with heart disease, and continues to both fundraise and volunteer for the BHF.

Under Simon’s leadership, the BHF has grown to become one of the largest charities in the UK. It funds more than half of all research carried out at UK universities into heart and circulatory diseases, such as heart failure, stroke and vascular dementia, together with risk factors including diabetes and high blood pressure.

Simon has ensured that the BHF promotes innovation and transformation in healthcare by working closely with the NHS across the UK. From the application of emerging technologies to assisting re-design of services, the BHF focuses on the needs of patients through engagement and involvement in all areas of its work.

Simon’s early career was in the Royal Navy, including command of HMS Sheffield and advising government ministers. From 2000 to 2004, he was Director of Operations at the Charity Commission. He then moved to become Director of Operations at the Healthcare Commission, where he was responsible for the inspection of NHS and independent healthcare facilities in England.

Simon has extensive national and international experience of charity and non-profit governance as a non-executive director/trustee. He chairs the UK Government’s Large Charities Group. He is a Board member of the World Heart Federation. He was President of the European Heart Network between 2015 and 2019 and has been re-elected to serve on the Board. He is a member of the NHS Assembly and co-chairs the NHS England cardiovascular disease Long Term Plan Delivery Group. Simon was named as the UK’s CEO of the Year in 2018 by CEO Today magazine.

Simon was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2019, recognising his services to patients and to medical research.


Professor Sir Nilesh Samani MD, FRCP, FMedSci

Medical Director

Professor Sir Nilesh Samani MD 

Nilesh joined the BHF in 2016. He is a former BHF Professor of Cardiology and Head of the Department of Cardiovascular Sciences at the University of Leicester. He is a Consultant Cardiologist at the Cardiac Centre, Glenfield Hospital, Leicester where he continues to undertake clinical work.

Nilesh is a Fellow of the UK Academy of Medical Sciences and an emeritus NIHR Senior Investigator and holds fellowships of the American College of Cardiology, the American Heart Association and the European Society of Cardiology. 

His research interests are focused around understanding the inherited basis of cardiovascular diseases. He has co-led discoveries in genetics and made major contributions to our understanding of the relationship between biological ageing and the development of cardiovascular diseases. He has published over 500 research papers and is one of the most highly cited researchers in the world. 

For his services to the community, Nilesh was made a Deputy Lieutenant of Leicestershire in 2009. In the 2015 New Year’s honours list, he was awarded a knighthood for his contribution to medicine and medical research.

Jacob West 

Director of Healthcare Innovation

Jacob West

Jacob joined the BHF in 2018. He leads the Healthcare Innovation directorate which works to turn research and insight into better health and care outcomes for patients and the public. 

Jacob has a background in national policy making and healthcare management in the UK and overseas. Most recently, he was a national lead for the NHS new care models programme.  As deputy director of the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit, he advised two Prime Ministers on health, education and criminal justice policy. 

Jacob was a Harkness Fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health and is a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at King’s College London’s Public Policy Institute.

Amanda Bringans

Director of Fundraising

Amanda Bringans

Amanda joined the BHF in 2015. Amanda began her career in advertising and made a career change to the voluntary sector to work at Comic Relief on Red Nose Day ‘95. Following that she spent 16 years at Macmillan where she managed the major brand review of 2006, led both community and corporate fundraising teams, and finally became Director of Fundraising. She has also spent time as Global Director of Fundraising and Communications at VSO, and Director of Fundraising at Battersea before joining the BHF.

Amanda is the current chair of the Institute of Fundraising, the membership body for fundraisers across the UK where she is a passionate advocate for the fundraising profession. 

Mike Taylor 

Commercial Director 

Mike Taylor

Mike joined the BHF in 2012 and is responsible for the 740 BHF shops in our award-winning retail operation, the largest of its kind in the UK, and our extensive online sales and commercial health services offer. These commercial activities are supported by 19,000 volunteers and 3,500 staff, and generate sales of over £200M a year and continue to raise awareness of our life saving activities. 

Mike was previously Managing Director of Budgens supermarkets, Londis convenience stores, and multi-chain retailers Past Times and Whittard of Chelsea. He is Chair of Trustees of the Fashion and Textile Children’s Trust and a Non-executive Director of the Scout Association’s Trading company.

Kerry Smith FCIPD

Director of People and Organisational Development

Kerry Smith FCIPD

Kerry joined the BHF in 2013 from the Royal Horticultural Society.  She leads a multi award-winning People and Organisational Development team, responsible for Human Resources, Learning & Organisational Development, Health, Safety & Wellbeing, Internal Communications, Facilities and delivering a great experience to our 20,000 volunteers across the organisation. Leading cultural and people change, Kerry has over 25 years’ experience supporting organisations to develop and deliver transformational change. Her career has included working with Royal Horticultural Society, United Response, National Trust and University College Hospital. 

As a Fellow of the CIPD, Kerry is also a Trustee of Charity HR Network. She was added to the HR’s Most Influential in 2018 and shortlisted for HRD of the Year in the HR Excellence Awards 2019.

Martin Miles

Chief Financial Officer

Martin Miles

Martin joined the BHF in 2014 from Waterstones, where he was the Finance Director. As Chief Financial Officer, Martin has responsibility for Finance, Risk, Legal, Operational Planning and Procurement. Before joining Waterstones, he spent 12 years in senior finance roles at HMV Group plc prior to its sale of Waterstones in 2011. 

As well as extensive retail finance experience, he brings significant knowledge of corporate activity and management, having qualified as a Chartered Accountant with PricewaterhouseCoopers and spending ten years with the firm in Southampton, Kuala Lumpur and Windsor.

Ursula Dolton 

Chief Technology Officer

Ursula Dolton

Ursula joined the BHF in 2016 and was appointed CTO in 2019. She was formerly Director of IT and Business Change. Ursula is responsible for delivering the BHF’s technology strategy in support of its charitable objectives. She leads the charity’s IT and portfolio management office; the data and customer relationship management teams, and the digital products and delivery teams.  Her role ensures all teams in the organisation have the tools that they need to turn fledgling ideas into impact for the organisation, and can use technology to increase efficiency and effectiveness.

Ursula has been in the technology industry for over 20 years. Previously, she led technology transformation at the University of East London and held IT and technology leadership positions in the private sector including at Cadbury, Citi Group and Jaguar Land Rover.

Carolan Davidge

Director of Marketing & Engagement

Carolan Davidge

Carolan joined the BHF in 2014 and leads our award-winning brand, marketing, communications, digital engagement and customer teams, involving people in our life saving work. Passionate about the role charities can play to change society for the better, her career has included senior roles at Cancer Research UK, the Medical Research Council, Macmillan Cancer Support and Shelter.

She is also a Non-Executive Director at the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust, a Trustee at ASH, Action on Smoking and Health and a qualified coach. She has been named the charity sector’s most influential communications professional by the PR Week Power Book and has received an Inspiring Communicator Award from CharityComms.

In 2019, Marketing Week named Carolan one of the Top 100 most effective marketers in the UK.

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