Competition for top jobs was hotting up this week as candidates in the running for NHS Executive director of human resources and director of the Modernisation Agency learnt their fate.

And an announcement on who will lead London regional office is expected any day.

On Monday candidates were shortlisted for the posts of director of HR and head of the Modernisation Agency. Second interviews are due to be held shortly.

Consultants A T Kearney Executive Search said recruitment to the post of head of the leadership centre had been delayed in order to allow the person appointed to head the Modernisation Agency to have a say in the recruitment to what would effectively be a 'subordinate' role.

The decision on who will lead London regional office has already been made, with the recommendation awaiting approval from the prime minister.

A Department of Health spokesperson stressed that there had been 'a very high quality of applicant - we could have appointed any of them'.

The vacancy for director of South East regional office - empty since Barbara Stocking left to become acting head of the Modernisation Agency - is also due to be filled shortly.

All the interview panels were chaired by Baroness Usha Prashar, first civil service commissioner responsible for the most senior civil service appointments.

All the posts will need prime ministerial approval.