Roger Moore, chief executive of the Appointments Commission, has defended its approach to the process of selection of chairs for the reconfigured primary care trusts in England, the first tranche of which were announced this week.

Roger Moore, chief executive of the Appointments Commission, has defended its approach to the process of selection of chairs for the reconfigured primary care trusts in England, the first tranche of which were announced this week.

The names of the first 38 new chairs were revealed on Monday.

But chairs have complained to HSJ that the process, which includes a pre-interview assessment and role play featuring prospective candidates and actors, was run by an outside agency with no knowledge of the NHS.

One chair who did not want to be identified said that the process, which the commission revealed cost£800 per candidate, was a waste of money as the task was simply to fill a quota of posts.

'The assessment was run by Human Assets, which has about seven full-time employees and the rest are consultants they bring in as and when needed. I don't think these people know anything about the NHS or the work that chairs do.'

Another chair said that the whole process would mean a net loss of hundreds of people who had dedicated themselves to the NHS.

They also expressed concerns at the way that unsuccessful candidates would simply be 'ditched'. 'They get a letter from the agency saying they haven't been successful in getting to the interview stage - not even a word of thanks for all their very low-paid work in the NHS.'

But Mr Moore said many candidates had found the process 'interesting and even fun'. The process, known as the 'Assessment Concept', was used for the latest round of PCT chief executive recruitments and pioneered by the commission 'with great success' for strategic health authority chairs.

Mr Moore said Human Assets was selected to run the assessment process after they were chosen from the Cabinet Office list of preferred suppliers through a limited tendering process.

He added: 'The scenarios are designed to reflect situations that might be faced by a PCT chair?the exercises have been carefully scripted with the assistance of ex perienced NHS leaders and calibrated via piloting on volunteers. The assessors are qualified occupational psychologists, specifically briefed for the task.'

Mr Moore said: 'The standard has been set very high commensurate with the importance of the PCT chair in ensuring that PCTs can deliver effective commissioning in the new NHS.'

Mr Moore said that the Appointments Commission and the health secretary would also write to each incumbent chair closer to the end of their appointement with 'an appropriate valedictory message'.

The remaining new chairs are due to be announced in tranches over the next month or so. They will then join the process of appointing non-executive directors.

Human Assets was unavailable for comment.