Trust finance directors who could make the shortlist include Helen Chalmers, Neil Chapman, from Leeds Teaching Hospitals trust, and Barry Elliott, HFMA president, from Barts and the London trust. John Flook, from County Durham and Darlington health authority, was also named along with Bob Dredge, former HFMA chair and director of finance and contracting at Dudley health authority. From the regional offices, director of finance and performance management at North West region Jim Birrell was the strongest candidate, HSJ sources said.

Christine Dawes, deputy director of finance at the NHS Executive, is also in the frame.