The Executive of the Year award honours the leaders who have provided inspired leadership on a company- and sector-wide level and driven their organisations to achieve great things over the past year.

We are delighted to announce that the 2021 shortlist includes the following names:

Andrew Knight, CEO, Care UK

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Andrew’s strategic leadership and passion for giving residents the very best life has led to a huge transformation since he joined Care UK seven years ago. He has galvanised his teams to pursue top quality care, resulting in Care UK achieving the highest CQC ratings of the five largest providers and outperforming market averages by 16% on residential homes with 18 ‘Outstanding’-rated homes.

Throughout the pandemic Andrew has ensured his 125 home management teams had clear guidance on what was required. He is passionate about good communications with his teams, residents and their relatives and throughout the last 16 months he has ensured everyone has been kept in touch with regular letters. Andrew is an advocate of using technology to benefit residents and colleagues, inspiring Care UK to invest in tools like the Relish app which enables residents to enjoy person-centred activities and E-meds to enable colleagues to work efficiently while spending more quality time with residents. Andrew has put development and training at the heart of his transformation. Under his leadership, Care UK has pioneered apprenticeships and his team to offer the highest possible standards of in-house training. He has also encouraged a partnership with the University of Worcester to ensure the latest academic evidence on dementia support is built into every aspect of Care UK’s work from the badges colleagues wear to investing in a Namaste programme.

Kay Cox, COO, Signature Senior Lifestyle

Against the backdrop of an extremely challenging year for the sector, Kay Cox, COO of Signature Senior Lifestyle, which operates a portfolio of 13 homes across London the Home Counties, has shown inspirational leadership and management, rising above to ensure all her homes, residents and staff have been looked after in a robust way while still delivering exceptional care and not losing sight of its significant growth ambitions. Testament to this, all of Signature’s homes are CQC rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’, putting the group in a very small percentage of operators to have achieved this, while staff including General Managers have been recognised for a number of prestigious industry awards. While ensuring existing homes have been carefully looked after, Kay has also been focused on growth and the next phase of new homes. This includes Signature at Hendon Hall, which is the inspired conversion of a Grade II listed building that once housed the world cup-winning 1966 England Football Team, as well as new build homes, Signature at Beckenham and Signature at Barnet, which collectively will provide circa 300 new apartments, including specialist dementia facilities. Most recently, in July 2021 it was announced that Signature and Care UK will be taking over the leadership and management of 18 Sunrise Senior Living UK and 2 Gracewell Healthcare care homes in the UK.

Samantha Crawley, Director of Care Quality & Transformation, Excelcare

Samantha always goes above and beyond her duties as a leader and she has done so even more during the past 12 months. COVID hit the industry hard and Samantha worked tirelessly to ensure that residents in all her care homes and her team members were as safe as possible and ensured they all had the support they needed. Samantha has, and continues to, make a true difference to others. She puts her heart and soul into delivering quality outcomes to residents, their families and her team of staff – nothing is ever too much trouble for her. Throughout COVID she worked above and beyond, leaving her own family to relocate and care for her Excelcare family. She worked day and night within the care homes to provide care and support to residents and staff members. Samantha knew that the residents and team were anxious about the pandemic and she tried many things to reassure them and put herself on the front line every day as an additional level of support. She brought psychologists in to talk with the residents and team to try and alleviate some of their fears. She liaised with the family and friends of residents regularly as she was all too aware how distressing it was for them not to be able to see their loved ones during such an unfamiliar time. She undertook support calls to help lift morale and gave reassurance at a time when others panicked. She listened when others needed to talk, and she talked when reassurance was sought.

Avnish Goyal, Chair, Hallmark Care Homes

Avnish was four years old when he left India with his family. The Goyal family came to the UK in 1970 with nothing but the clothes on their backs and the small amount of money they had worked hard to save. The family worked hard to create the future they all knew they deserved. From shops to houses, they slowly built up a successful portfolio of properties which enabled them to make smarter, larger investments. Avnish has never forgotten his humble beginnings and as a result, making a difference to the lives of others has been a huge priority over the years and continues to be a main focus.  In 1997, Avnish founded Hallmark Care Homes with his brothers and was initially attracted to the industry by his desire to make a difference. By founding the company and purchasing his first care home in Wales, he began to realise his vision of becoming recognised as the leading provider of high-quality relationship-centred care for all residents. Twenty-four years on, there are now 19 Hallmark Care Homes across England and Wales, with many more in the pipeline and the company is recognised as a leading, financially stable provider. Hallmark Care Homes has won over 100 awards, many of which can be credited to Avnish and his vision for delivering high quality relationship-centred care. All of their services bar one has a ‘Good’, ‘Outstanding’ or ‘Compliant’ CQC/CIW rating.

Gavin O’Hare-Connolly, COO, Runwood Homes & Sanders Senior Living

As COO of Runwood Homes, Gavin’s mantra, as his career has fortuitously progressed within the health and social care sector for promoting care and nursing care as a profession, is well known by those that have ever worked with him: “The best way to ensure a strong future for the care and nursing profession is to invest in, and develop, the people within our teams.”  This ethos has cemented Gavin as an influential Nurse Leader in the eyes of his peers and won him admiration and loyalty of the care and nursing teams whom he has helped. As recently as 2021 he was awarded Investors in People Silver Award (With Gold in Organisational Leadership). Gavin led his 5,000 staff team through COVID-19 pandemic in creating a COVID steering group which led to enhanced communication across the organisation, enhanced communication with families and championed the essential care giver role, offering data on its effectiveness to The Care Quality Commission.

In this current year as COO with Runwood Homes, Gavin has worked to strengthen relationships with all stakeholders and personally connecting with all involved, whether that is attending local authority or regulatory meetings, engaging with Home Managers and staff weekly and making regular visits to Runwood sites to speak to clients and relatives and monitoring the quality of care – a conscious partnerships and collaboration approach.

Tickets and tables are now available for the Leaders in Care Awards can be booked HERE.

Any companies interested in commercial opportunities surrounding the Leaders in Care Awards should contact:

Josh Waddell
0203 176 5458


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The author Lee Peart

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