THIS WEEK

A major shake-up in the way non-executive directors are recruited will be launched this week in a bid to allay the concerns of the public appointments watchdog.

NHS appointment commission chair Sir William Wells says draft new rules on recruiting non-executives will meet a number of recommendations made by commissioner for public appointments Dame Rennie Fritchie.

Allegations that Labour was packing boards with its cronies prompted Dame Rennie's scrutiny of trust and health authority board appointments last year.

She reported that the process had 'become politicised in a systemic way' and made a series of recommendations for reform.

The role of ministers in making board appointments was removed with the establishment of Sir William's commission - which was first announced in the NHS plan.

The new appointment rules, which are out for consultation, will remove MPs' powers to recommend candidates and abolish regional registers of non-executives in favour of 'job-specific' recruitment.

Sir William told HSJ: 'I took the view that if the commissioner for public appointments makes a significant number of recommendations it was incumbent on us to look at them, study them and then incorporate them into the new process.'

The new process would be 'much more open and transparent so the people making appointments and interviewees know what is required of them'.

He added that it was 'very important to put back in a much greater degree of local input'.

This was why he had agreed with Dame Rennie 'that it would be proper for the chair to be involved' where non-executive appointments were being made to their board.

Dame Rennie said the new system was 'an indication that lessons have been learned from the scrutiny'.

This included the recommendation which Sir William had 'taken on board' that generic national advertising of nonexecutive positions be replaced by local job-specific adverts.

Dame Rennie said: 'I am really optimistic, having been disheartened at what I perceived to be a lack of engagement about addressing some of these things from ministers and the [NHS] Executive.'