'To what extent is the success of current primary care trust chief executives in winning the top jobs in the new organisations a verdict on the success of the whole sector?'

To what extent is the success of current primary care trust chief executives in winning the top jobs in the new organisations a verdict on the success of the whole sector?

On current form, the verdict is one of faint praise. As reported this week (news, page 5), four of the new strategic health authorities have in effect announced the recruitment for the new PCT jobs and on average more than a third of posts remain unfilled. Other SHA areas might do better, some will almost certainly do worse. Extrapolate that across the country and you could guess that about 20 of the 70 reconfigured PCTs will have an empty seat at the top table for the time being.

In some areas, the decision is more stark. Take South Central SHA as an example. It can only find two existing PCT chief executives to fill six posts despite being able to draw on 25 PCTs.

Union Managers in Partnership has said it is getting many complaints from around the country. One would expect there to be protests, but is the recruitment gap such an awful thing?

After all it is not the job of SHAs to give a vote of confidence in the old system or the skills and experience of the people who ran it.

It could reasonably be argued that many PCTs and PCT managers have not been given the right developmental support and therefore some potential has remained unfulfilled. As long as they can demonstrate the process was robust the SHAs should look dispassionately to the future.

New PCTs have a different role. Many of the skills do not exist anywhere - the judgement that needs to be made is which individuals have at least begun to develop them. If that leaves holes it is not a failure of the new SHAs.