Plans set out in the next stage review to invest in the top 250 NHS leaders have been scrapped amid charges of 'elitism'.

The Top 250 programme has been replaced with Top Leaders, aimed at helping thousands of managers apply for the highest NHS positions.

It will focus on improving the calibre of candidates vying for the 250 most senior posts, rather than focusing on the 250 most influential NHS managers.

Royal College of GPs chair Steve Field said the scheme had been viewed as "elitist and exclusive".

He said: "The biggest danger is that in trying to get people involved in leadership, people go for the usual suspects."

Talent spotting

Department of Health director general of workforce Clare Chapman played down the change, saying last June's next stage review "referred to the need to spot and develop those who could be candidates for the top 250 posts across the service."

The review's wording was: "The Department will identify and support the top 250 leaders in the NHS… with development, mentoring, and active career management."

Developing NHS Leadership Skills is on 12 March,