Commissioner for public appointments Dame Rennie Fritchie has called for an end to local authority nominations for NHS chair and nonexecutive posts.

The report of a scrutiny group looking at issues of political bias, which reported yesterday, also calls for the role and purpose of boards to be examined, a study of the 'range of skills and experience needed in appointees' and a 'fundamental review' of the way in which appointments are made.

Dame Rennie said that from evidence presented to the scrutiny group, 'it is clear that there have been instances where a person's political association has been a decisive factor in the consideration of their candidature and that appointments to the NHS have not always been on merit'.

The report's findings further calls for a review of the process of re-appointing non-executive directors, and a faster decision-making process.

At one point last year 20 non-executive posts were vacant in North West region because of ministerial delays in choosing the appointees.

But the NHS Confederation insisted earlier this year that the situation had improved and there were no major problems outstanding.

The report follows complaints that boards have been packed with Labour Party supporters. In 1998, 288 nonexecutive directors and chairs declared they we re Labour supporters , compared to 49 Conservatives and 28 Liberal Democrats.

Appointment pointers: the key recommendations The role and purpose of NHS boards and the skills needed in appointees should be considered.

The practice of consulting MPs about shortlisted candidates should stop.

The practice of seeking nominations from local authorities should stop.

The decision-making process should be speeded up.

The approach to re-appointments should be reviewed.

The introduction of late entrants into the appointment process should stop.