Rabbi takes leading role in health debate

At the age of 47, Rabbi Julia Neuberger (right) already has a string of prestigious achievements to her name. She became the first British woman rabbi with a congregation, is chair of the largest community health trust in Britain, and is Chancellor of the University of Ulster.

Now she will be at the forefront of the National Health Service debate after being appointed yesterday as chief executive of the independent think-tank, the King's Fund.

The fund, established 100 years ago by the then Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, and which employs around 200, is a respected forum for new thinking in health policy. Under Rabbi Neuberger, the organisation is expected to take a more pro-active role in health policy, at a time when the new Labour Government begins its own restructuring of the NHS.

Rabbi Neuberger said yesterday she was "thrilled" to be appointed. "I have always had enormous respect for the work of the fund."

She added: "As the new Government begins its programme, there are very substantial and challenging issues to be faced for health care in its widest sense, including social care and housing, both in London and throughout the country."

Already a fellow of the King's Fund Management College, Rabbi Neuberger was also quick to refer to the body's "commitment to the principles of social justice and to support bold and innovative work."

Her appointment, which brings with it a salary of more than pounds 90,000, was approved by the charity's president, Prince Charles, and was the unanimous choice of the management committee, out of around 100 original applicants.

One of her early priorities when she takes over from current chief executive, Robert Maxwell, in December, will be to help reduce the fund's overspend, which last year reached pounds 780,000.

Michael Streeter