The Department of Health will not appoint a new chief for NHS Connecting for Health until spring 2008 at the earliest.

With current chief executive Richard Granger due to leave at the end of the year, there will be a gap at the top of the£12.4bn IT programme for at least three months.

The hiatus comes at a crucial time with contractual talks under way with all the big IT companies leading the local implementation.

In a statement, NHS CfH said that no appointment would be made until a review of NHS informatics ordered by NHS chief executive David Nicholson is complete.

Matthew Swindell, the interim director general for information and programme integration, is leading this. But the review will not be complete until March or April next year and will only produce an interim report this month.

NHS CfH said: 'Since Richard announced his resignation, David Nicholson has set up a review of how the NHS uses informatics to improve patient care. This is not a review of Connecting for Health, nor of the national programme for IT, but it was recommended by [junior health minister] Ara Darzi in his next stage report.

'In the light of these developments, David now thinks the time is right to look closely at what skills and management arrangements we need to take Connecting for Health forward. We expect to be able to outline this before the end of the year. In the meantime, Richard Granger and his team continue to do an excellent job in leading the programme.'

The Department of Health has failed to respond to a separate Freedom of Information request made by HSJ about Mr Granger within the time limit set in legislation. The DoH has not given a guaranteed date by which it will reply. HSJ has been told by the Information Commissioner's Office it has grounds for a formal complaint.