The team is made up of interested parties from across a variety of organisations. It is headed up by Executive Chair Professor Richard Parish CBE and Deputy Chair Jan Sobieraj.

Chair Nigel Edwards

Nigel Edwards is an independent health policy expert working as an advisor with WHO and a number of UK organisations including PPL and RAND Europe.

Nigel was Chief Executive at the Nuffield Trust from 2012 to 2023.  He has a long career in health policy and working on innovation and change in healthcare delivery and in providing challenging analysis on health policy.  He has a strong interest in using different disciplines to inform health policy.

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Jan Sobieraj

Jan has 28 years experience in the NHS with most at CEO level across a range of NHS organisations. This included many years in Lincolnshire where he saw first hand the challenges of providing healthcare to a dispersed population across a large rural and coastal geography. He was Managing Director for NHS and Social Care Workforce at the Department of Health and set up and ran the NHS Leadership Academy.

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Graham Biggs MBE

Graham is the Chief Executive of the Rural Services Network (RSN) – England’s largest national membership organisation relating to services to rural communities. 

Graham has been the Chief Officer/Executive of the network since its formation in the early 2000’s and of SPARSE- Rural for some five years before that.

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Dr Debbie Freake

Dr Debbie Freake was Director of Integration at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. Debbie worked as a GP in the North East for many years and since 2001 has carried out a variety of Board-level clinical and managerial roles in both commissioning and provider organisations. Over the years her passion has been for clinical service redesign and transformation.

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Dr John Wynn-Jones

Dr John Wynn-Jones has been a rural GP in Wales for 37 years. He has now retired from clinical practice but still continues to work part time at Keele University and with RuralWonca. He trained at Guy’s Hospital London 1969-75 but after finishing his GP training returned to his native Wales to work in a rural practice in Montgomery on the Welsh borders

Read more about Dr John Wynn-Jones

Nikki Cooke (Chief Executive Officer, LIVES)

Nikki Cooke is the Chief Executive of Lincolnshire-based emergency response charity LIVES.  Originally from New Zealand, Nikki has a broad background in the private and VCSE sectors and has worked in the NHS.  

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Professor Mark Gussy (Global Professor in Rural Health and Social Care)

Mark's research and professional activity is about making significant contributions to the evidence base for oral health and its interface with general health and wellbeing with particular emphasis on vulnerable and marginalised people. Professor Gussy has experience and academic success that transcends professional boundaries and is now firmly located in transdisciplinary action and rural and community-centred health. Mark has strength in research methods, including trials, longitudinal cohort and prospective repeated cross-sectional design, together with a clinical interest in clinical disease and its multiple determinants, leading his research work towards complex community intervention trials and birth cohort studies. Mark has a particular interest and experience of systems of care/treatment services and the people and groups that sit outside the mainstream service and social systems and the health and social inequity that arises from this. Expert in oral health and its use as a vehicle for exploring broader social and structural determinants of participation and also challenging entrenched, exclusionary systems that disadvantage the most vulnerable. His work is multidisciplinary and straddles multiple domains including clinical care, health service research, community and participatory research, and equity and inclusion. 

Professor Andrew Dickenson (Chief Dental Officer for Wales)

As a clinician Andrew holds dual qualifications in dentistry and medicine. He undertook postgraduate surgical training across the North East of England and the Midlands regions. In 2003 he became a consultant in oral and maxillofacial surgery. He has worked in medical and dental education, joining Health Education England as Dean of Postgraduate Education in 2014. Andrew holds a visiting professorship in health and social care at the University of Chester.

Mark Cooke (Regional Director of Strategy and Transformation, NHSEI South West)

Mark has held many senior roles in the NHS in his 40 year career. He is a CIPFA accountant. In the 1990’s Mark was involved in establishing NHS Trusts. He moved Heartlands NHS Trust in Birmingham as Deputy Finance Director, ultimately becoming its Finance Director and Director of Strategy. He subsequently moved to the Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Trust as Deputy CEO and CFO. His first Chief Executive post oversaw the merger of two PCTs in Dudley where he also chaired the Dudley Local Strategic Partnership. He also chaired various West Midland Specialised Commissioning Groups and hosted the West Midlands Commissioning Business Support Agency. He chaired the West Midlands HFMA in 2002 and was the first Chair of the HFMA Mental Health FD Network.

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Director of Operations Ivan Annibal

Ivan is Managing Director of Rose Regeneration. He developed the company 10 years ago, following 15 years in public service in Lincolnshire, working with West Lindsey District Council, Lincolnshire Training and Enterprise Council and Lincolnshire County Council. Subsequently he has undertaken consultancy commissions in all 9 local authority areas in Greater Lincolnshire.

Read more about Ivan Annibal

Senior Research Fellow Dr Jessica Sellick

Jessica has been supporting the development of the National Centre since 2016. She undertook some of the initial research, interviewed key stakeholders, and presented her findings at a symposium in 2017 from which a clear way forward for the Centre was identified.   

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History of the National Centre for Rural Health and Care

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