A large number of chairs and non-executive directors have left the NHS feeling 'bruised, hurt and devalued', a report from the NHS Alliance reveals.
The five-page document - which has not been published officially but has been seen by HSJ - reveals deep unease among NEDs and chairs over last year's appointments process, which saw every primary care trust get a newly appointed board.
A survey of the alliance's 350-strong NED Network (NEDNET) indicated that eight out of 10 chairs and NEDs had reapplied for their posts but only 8 to 10 per cent had been successful.
These figures are disputed by the NHS Appointments Commission, which says 65 per cent of new chairs and 55 per cent of NEDs previously held office with PCTs.
Comments from the alliance's 70 respondents were critical of the appointments process, citing the use of outside agencies, poor administration and a long delay between the initial application and interview stage. One chair said: 'I received a letter saying I had insufficient skills in leadership and finance and could not be reappointed. In the same post I had a letter from the SHA chair thanking me for strong leadership of the PCT and for my skills in managing a balanced budget.'
Many felt the process was politically motivated, with an intention to get rid of outspoken NEDs. One re-appointed NED said: 'There seems to be a bias against candidates with a record of constructive challenge, even in award-winning PCTs declared fit for purpose.'
The report says: 'There is an overwhelming view that very considerable amounts of money and time have been spent training and honing the skills of non-execs and that at a stroke this knowledge, goodwill, hard-won understanding and experience has been discarded.'
John Chapman, chair of NEDNET and a former NED at Herefordshire PCT, said the survey was not scientific. Respondents included people who had been successful as well as those who had not, he added. Although he agreed that some of the comments might be dismissed as sour grapes, he said: 'The truth is a lot of people who believed that they were doing a good job were just shut off in a way that proved quite bruising and hurtful.'
Alliance chair Dr Michael Dixon said: 'This report says something about grace and manners and the way the NHS repeatedly fails to thank, value and respect those who work for it.' He said he would be raising the issue with ministers.
But NHS Appointments Commission acting chief executive Janice Scanlon said it was inevitable that some people would lose out in the process of cutting over 300 PCTs to 150.
She said: 'We are aware of people feeling bruised but we do not believe it is because of our processes but a natural consequence of the disappointment felt.'