NHS Employers has moved to defend the selection process for primary care trust chief executives after rumours of upset circulated in the service last week.

NHS Employers has moved to defend the selection process for primary care trust chief executives after rumours of upset circulated in the service last week.

HSJ understands that a total of 83 chief executives were judged 'above the bar' via independent assessment centre vetting, which has been taking place over the past two weeks around the country.

Those candidates are now being interviewed for a total of 76 chief executive jobs available in new PCTs.

Sian Thomas, joint deputy director of NHS Employers, which is recruiting on behalf of the Department of Health, said 'every effort' will be made to find roles for surplus candidates who have been deemed 'above the line'.

However, HSJ has heard that some 'well-regarded' chief executives of high performing PCTs who did not get through are questioning the assessment centre process.

There is some 'hurt' in West Yorkshire where it is rumoured that none of the 15 chief executives survived the process. HSJ has been unable to substantiate this claim.

'It is difficult to paint a picture because different deals have been done around the country involving secondment and voluntary redundancy offers', according to union Managers in Partnership.

Ms Thomas commented: 'This is the first time we've carried out a process like this in the NHS.

'It's the way that private sector multinational companies test their potential leaders to ensure the bar is being set at an appropriate level.'

* PCT chief executives' pay will be determined by the size of the populations they are responsible for, the long-awaited Very Senior Managers pay framework is set to reveal today.

They may also receive an additional payment of 30 per cent of base pay as a 'recruitment or retention' carrot, HSJ understands.

And the framework sets directors' salaries on a sliding percentage scale based on chief executives' pay, with finance directors on 75 per cent at the top end.