The chair and the chief executive of the proposed independent NHS commissioning board are unlikely to take up their roles until autumn next year, HSJ understands.

The Department of Health’s July policy document declares the board “will be responsible for ensuring a comprehensive system of GP commissioning consortia across the NHS, for holding consortia to account and for commissioning some services itself. It will [also] allocate and account for NHS resources.”

Senior DH sources have told HSJ the recruitment process for the board’s chair and chief executive will begin “in the spring” with the hope of having both in post “by October.”

The board is due to be established in shadow form next April and take full control a year later. The current recruitment timetable would mean that it would be without substantive leadership for the first six months of its shadow existence.

It also appears likely the recruitment process for chair and chief executive will take place in parallel. Normally a chair would lead the recruitment process for a chief executive. However, HSJ understands government will attempt to ensure the choice of chief executive is “informed” by the views of candidates for the chair’s post.

The board chief executive would take on many of the responsibilities currently held by NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson, whose five year contract with the DH ends next September.

The timing of the recruitment process would seem to place Dame Barbara Hakin in a strong position to vie for the chief executive’s post. As national managing director of commissioning development, she is leading on the creation of the framework for GP commissioning. In this week’s HSJ100, Dame Barbara was placed in seventh position, a rise of 39 places.

HSJ also understands the board would have five executive and five non-executive directors, as well as the chair and chief executive. This structure is being proposed as the model for all agencies in the new health landscape, such as Monitor’s successor, the NHS economic regulator.

A DH spokesperson said: “The structure of the NHS commissioning board is subject to the parliamentary bill and the timetable for recruitment and appointments has yet to be decided.”