Monitor’s top job is to be split in two under plans being developed by the Department of Health.

HSJ understands that DH permanent secretary Sir Hugh Taylor will oversee the move to replace the executive chairman position - currently held by Bill Moyes - with separate chief executive and chair roles.

Being executive chair gives Mr Moyes an unusually powerful role. Most NHS organisations have a chair and chief executive. The move would also bring Monitor in line with other regulators, such as the Care Quality Commission.

A Whitehall source said there was “a sense within the NHS and the Department of Health” that a clear separation of the roles was needed.

A government source said there was a view at the DH that separating the roles could “take some of the personality issues out of Monitor”.

Mr Moyes clashed with the Department of Health last year, criticising it for taking a “directive” and “instructive” tone in letters to foundation trusts, and sharing his views with trusts after his own exchange of letters with NHS chief executive David Nicholson had revealed disagreements between them.

Managers welcomed the plan to split Monitor’s top job.

An NHS chief executive said: “It’s an open secret that Mr Moyes isn’t everyone’s favourite person at the DH, so my question would be is this truly about the role or about the person?

“Monitor and the private sector good governance codes all recommend separation of the chair and chief executive so it’s a bit ironic that the body that governs foundation trusts has never done this.”

A DH spokeswoman said: “The current appointment of the [executive] chair of Monitor ends on 31 January 2010. No decisions have been taken beyond that point.”

Monitor declined to comment.

See Limits on Monitor should not threaten foundation trusts