Public appointment: Members appointed to Highland NHS Board

Public appointments news release.

The Cabinet Secretary for NHS Recovery, Health and Social Care, Michael Matheson MSP today announced the appointment of Mrs Karen Leach, Mr Steve Walsh and Mrs Emily Woolard as Members of Highland NHS Board. 


Karen Leach was born in Ayrshire and lived and worked in Guernsey for over 30 years before making her home in Kintyre in 2022. Karen is a semi-retired registered nurse with a varied 40 year career across hospital and community health and social care.  Karen’s most recent post was Associate Director for the States of Guernsey’s Integrated Adult Community Services, responsible for strategy, operational leadership and management and transformation as part of the senior leadership team. Karen holds a Masters in Leadership and Management in Health Care and brings  expertise in evidence based approaches to decision making.  Karen was awarded a Churchill Fellowship in 2018 to research how systems respond to individual meaning and purpose. 

Steve Walsh OBE former RAF officer with experience at senior level in the private, public and third sectors. A Chartered Fellow of CIPD, Steve brings strengths in leadership, workforce strategies and change management. He is currently the Chief Executive of High Life Highland. Steve is passionate about the benefits that physical, mental and social wellbeing can have on the health of communities. Steve is Chair of Highland Disability Sport and an ambassador for the military charity, Soldiers’, Sailors’ and Airmen’s Family Association (SSAFA), and trustee of a number of Highland Charities. 

Emily Woolard is an entrepreneur running her own tourism business, having previously spent 10 years working in governance, strategy and operations roles with international banks and financial services organisations. Emily lives with her husband in Connel, Argyll, and holds several voluntary roles in the local area, as well as serving as a Non-Executive Director of a biotechnology start-up based in Oban. Emily also served in a voluntary capacity as a Public Representative on NHS Highland's Clinical Governance Committee since June 2021. As a patient managing a long-term health condition, Emily also brings experience as a user of NHS Highland's services. 


All three appointments are for four years, from 1 December 2023 to 30 November 2027.  

The appointments are regulated by the Ethical Standards Commissioner. 


The appointments are part-time and attract a remuneration of £9,030 per annum for a time commitment of one day per week. 

Other ministerial appointments 

Mrs Leach, Mr Walsh and Mrs Woolard do not hold any other public appointments. 

Political activity  

All appointments are made on merit and political activity plays no part in the selection process.  However, in accordance with the original Nolan recommendations, there is a requirement for appointees’ political activity within the last five years (if there is any to be declared) to be made public.    

Mrs Leach, Mr Walsh and Mrs Woolard have had no political activity within the last five years.  


NHS Highland’s catchment area comprises the largest and most sparsely populated part of the UK.  It is responsible for meeting the health needs of around 320,000 people living in the area, and provides a comprehensive range of primary, community-based and acute hospital services for the population. 

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