Rebecca Burke-Sharples CBE

Presented by Professor Frank Sanderson

Honorable Pro-Chancellor, I have pleasure in presenting Rebecca Burke-Sharples for the award of an Honorary Fellowship of Liverpool John Moores University.  

Rebecca Burke-Sharples is Chief Executive of Halton and St Helens Primary Care Trust which employs around 2000 staff with a budget of £430M and looks after the health needs of approx 300,000 people in the catchment area. This is the latest challenge for Rebecca in a career which has seen her take on various executive appointments and a national trouble-shooting role in the NHS, and has had her outstanding contributions to the NHS acknowledged through a CBE.   

Rebecca Burke, the daughter of Betty and Vincent Burke, was born in 1956 at Liverpool Maternity Hospital whilst Vincent was at a Liverpool-Everton match. A Liverpool supporter, Vincent claims that he can't remember the result, which probably means that Everton won. What he does remember is that the family did question his priorities at the time….  

Like our Chancellor Emeritus, Cherie Booth, Rebecca attended Seafield Convent Grammar School in Crosby, leaving with an impressive array of 'O' and 'A' Levels. She changed her mind about a legal career after a summer job in a nursing home convinced her that her future was in nursing. In 1976, she went on to train at Alder Hey Hospital for Sick Children in Liverpool, registering in 1979 as a Sick Children's Nurse, and at Broadgreen Hospital where she also trained as a State Registered Nurse.   

By the mid 1980's, Rebecca was specialising in the clinical management of nursing in the field of paediatrics. With a strong motivation to really make a difference and influence how services are delivered, she moved into general healthcare management in 1990. Armed with an enthusiasm for nursing and a strong commitment to the improvement of healthcare through enlightened leadership and effective management, Rebecca assumed a number of senior management roles throughout the 1990s.

In 1992 she was appointed Director of Nursing for the two Children's hospitals serving the Greater Manchester population. Rebecca made her mark nationally when she contributed directly to the development of national policy in relation to the improvement of Paediatric Intensive Care Services. 

In 1998 she was appointed by the Secretary of State for Health to the Panel of the Public Inquiry into children's heart surgery at the Bristol Royal Infirmary. The outcome of the largest independent public inquiry the NHS has undertaken listed almost 200 far-reaching recommendations for improvements, impacting on the development and delivery of healthcare services for all patients. The experience emphasised for Rebecca the importance of effective teamwork, and the pitfalls of 'silo management'. 

In 2000, Rebecca returned to Alder Hey where she had begun her career in the 1970s, but this time as Executive Director of Nursing. In 2002 she was presented by the Queen with the honour of Commander of the British Empire for services to Nursing and Health Management. 

In April 2005 Rebecca was appointed to her first Chief Executive position in the NHS and led the successful merger of two Primary Care Trusts to create a single PCT serving the residents of Runcorn, St Helens and Widnes. She sees the main challenges as how to manage the ever-increasing demands on the service and how to shift the focus of the service from illness towards wellness. If it is to have any chance of meeting the challenges, the NHS will certainly need transformational managers able to shape the future and bring out the best in each member of the workforce, managers of the calibre of Rebecca Burke-Sharples.   

Rebecca, who takes her vocational inspiration from Victorian nurse Mary Seacole, has an obvious passion for and commitment to the continuous improvement of healthcare and a dedication to the service of patients through strong and visible leadership. We are pleased to acknowledge the excellence of this outstanding Merseysider today.  

Thus I have great pleasure in presenting Rebecca Burke-Sharples, CBE, this most distinguished daughter of our region, for admission to our highest honour of Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University.