Prospective clinical commissioning group leaders are to be assessed for “aptitude and attitude” in the next two months.

Prospective CCG chairs who successfully complete the process will be formally appointed by the group that nominated them. Prospective accountable officers and chief financial officers will be placed in a “talent pool” for groups to choose from.

Dame Barbara Hakin revealed the next stage in the development of CCGs to HSJ in her first interview as NHS Commissioning Board national director of commissioning development.

She explained the national assessment or “diagnostic” process which prospective CCG leaders will undergo.

Emerging CCGs were due to be asked this week to “sponsor” their preferred chair for the assessment.

They can also put forward candidates for the other two posts. People who want to be accountable or finance officers but who are not nominated by a CCG can be put forward by a strategic health authority.

Dame Barbara said the diagnostic process would test a range of requirements and have a focus on “attitude and aptitude”. Candidates would have to show the “ability to develop all the necessary knowledge and skills” by the time CCGs take on full responsibility, in April 2013, rather than immediately.

Candidates will be expected to demonstrate an “understanding that they need to develop” and “willingness to learn and understand” their new roles before they take over.

After the process they will be told how they need to improve and be supported to do so.

“Demonstrating commitment to clinical commissioning is vitally important,” Dame Barbara said. “We all know these are clinical commissioning groups.”

She added: “It would be strange if anyone went through the assessment process if they didn’t believe clinical commissioning was important.”

Dame Barbara said CCGs would have to hold recruitment processes for non-GP accountable and finance officers and they will not have individuals allocated to them under employment law.

She said: “The legal advice we have had is that these very senior roles are different from anything we’ve had previously. At these very senior levels TUPE [protection of employment rules] would not apply.”

However, Dame Barbara said in many areas CCGs did not have strongly preferred candidates and would look to a “talent pool” of officers which would be created by the assessment process.

She said such CCGs were saying: “‘We want to let lots of people go through this [assessment] and to follow a recruitment process’”.

Most assessments are expected to take place in April.