Our Executive Group

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

Simon Gillespie OBE

Chief Executive

Simon Gillespie

Simon joined the British Heart Foundation (BHF) as Chief Executive 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

Medical Director, British Heart Foundation

Nilesh SamaniNilesh Samani became Medical Director of the British Heart Foundation in 2016.  

Professor Samani 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.

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

Professor Samani’s research interests are focused around understanding the inherited basis of cardiovascular diseases. He has co-led the discovery of over 60 genetic loci associated with coronary heart disease. These findings are providing new insights into the causes of coronary heart disease and identifying novel approaches towards prediction, prevention and treatment of this common disease. Professor Samani has also made major contributions to our understanding of the relationship between biological ageing and the development of cardiovascular diseases. He has published over 450 research papers and is one of the most highly cited researchers in the world. 

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

Mike Taylor

Retail Director

Mike TaylorMike Taylor started his career in Top Shop and has nearly 30 years’ experience in retailing. For most of that time he has held Director level positions in major retailers across sectors as diverse as footwear, sportswear, food and homewares.

As Managing Director of both Budgens and Londis he was responsible for a network of over 2000 stores throughout the UK, and more recently focused on both retail and online development in speciality retailers, including several years as Managing Director of both Past Times and Whittard of Chelsea.

Prior to taking up his current role, Mike was a non-executive member of both the BHF Retail and Audit committees.

Kerry Smith FCIPD

Director of People and Organisational Development

Kerry SmithKerry joined the British Heart Foundation in October 2013 from the Royal Horticultural Society, where she headed up Human Resources for 8 years and supported transformational change across the Society. 

Kerry has over 25 years’ experience in the not for profit sector having led HR and organisational change for staff and volunteers working for United Response, The National Trust and both the University College and Royal Free Hospitals.

As Director of People and Organisational Development, Kerry leads the Directorate responsible for all People matters for the BHF’s staff and volunteers with an ambition to deliver a World Class Organisation. The Directorate includes human resources, reward, recruitment, organisational design and cultural change, talent development, volunteering, health and safety, facilities, internal communications and employee relations. 

Kerry is no stranger to heart disease having supported her husband, 5 years ago through major heart surgery to repair the mitral valve. As a fellow of the CIPD, Kerry also sits on the CIPD Reward Forum representing the sector on pay related issues.

Carolan Davidge

Director of Marketing & EngagementCarolan Davidge

Carolan Davidge is the British Heart Foundation’s Director of Marketing and Engagement.

She leads the charity’s brand, marketing, communications and digital teams, helping to engage people in the life saving work of the charity. She is also responsible for the charity’s policy development and national influencing work in all four countries of the UK.

Prior to the BHF, she spent a decade as Director of Communications at Cancer Research UK where she led award-winning brand and social marketing campaigns and helped secure significant public health measures such as smokefree workplaces.

She has also held communication roles at the Medical Research Council, Macmillan Cancer Support and Shelter. Her non-executive and advisory board experience includes roles at CharityComms, the Science Media Centre, the Association of Medical Research Charities and Action on Smoking and Health (ASH).

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.

Passionate about health and fitness, Carolan participates in the BHF’s fundraising bike rides, most recently in Dorset.

Martin Miles

Chief Financial Officer

Martin Miles

Martin Miles joined the British Heart Foundation in November 2014 from Waterstones, where he was the Finance Director. As Chief Financial Officer, Martin has responsibility across the 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.

Amanda Bringans

Director of Fundraising

Amanda BringansAmanda joined the British Heart Foundation in December 2015. She comes to the team with a strong background in fundraising, strategic development and implementation,  strategic brand management and communications. 

Amanda has held recent interim fundraising director posts at Leonard Cheshire Disability and Battersea Dogs and Cats Home. Before that she was Director of Global Fundraising and Communications at VSO for three years, and spent 16 years at Macmillan where she was latterly Director of Fundraising.



Jacob West

Director of Healthcare Innovation

Jacob joined British Heart Foundation in February 2018. He leads the Healthcare Innovation directorate which brings together a range of teams to maximize the BHF’s impact for patients and society. 

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. From 2010 to 2014, he was Director of Strategy at King’s College Hospital.

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.

Ursula Dolton

Chief Technology Officer

Ursula DoltonUrsula Dolton joined the British Heart Foundation in March 2016 and was appointed the Chief Technology Officer in May, 2019 when the new Technology directorate was formed, and for the past year and a half has been the director of IT and business change.   Ursula is responsible for delivering the BHF’s technology strategy in support of its charitable objectives. This will include a focus on how technology can best support research and innovation; help people affected by heart and circulatory disease; and drive income growth across the BHF’s commercial, retail and fundraising offerings. 

The new Technology directorate combines the charity’s IT and portfolio management office, its digital, data and customer relationship management teams, and its digital products and delivery teams.  Her role will also ensure 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 organisational efficiency and effectiveness.

Ursula has been in the technology industry for over 20 years. Previously, she has 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.