NHS leaders have rebutted the idea that strategic health authorities will be redundant in an era of strengthened commissioners and trusts.

The expert panel at HSJ's leadership forum in London on Monday set out a clear vision for the role of SHAs with leadership development playing a central part. But they also argued SHAs lack necessary skills.

Developing talent

Care Quality Commission chief executive Cynthia Bower said SHAs should manage the "leadership pipeline" across their region. Developing leaders was "intrinsic" to the SHA role, she said.

Harrogate and District foundation trust chief executive John Lawlor said SHAs were well placed to lead talent development but would need a "world class SHA framework" to ensure they had the skills.

Performance management

Hull teaching primary care trust chief executive Christopher Long said performance management by SHAs was "patchy". He also pointed out that few SHA managers had run PCTs or worked at a senior level in a trust.

London Ambulance Service trust chief executive Peter Bradley said improvements needed a "radical approach" to internal communication for staff to understand any change, requiring "a significant amount of time from senior management".

Reaching out

In his keynote address NHS chief executive David Nicholson criticised the fact that few chief executive posts attracted more than one candidate. The NHS needed to reach out to untapped groups from different sectors and ethnic groups to ensure the best possible people applied for the top 250 jobs, he said.