The health secretary will begin recruiting a new chair of Monitor in the next few weeks and make an appointment early next year, HSJ has learned.

The Department of Health will begin recruiting a new chair of Monitor in the next few weeks and make an appointment early next year, HSJ has learned.

The move contrasts with a decision to delay appointing the senior team at the national commissioning board until next autumn.

The move to seek a new Monitor chair means incumbent Steve Bundred - the former Audit Commission chief executive - would have to reapply for the job if he wanted to stay on. He was appointed in March under the previous government.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley said in a letter to Mr Bundred that his plans for Monitor to become an economic regulator with a “quite different set of requirements” meant its board needed to change.

The letter, released to HSJ, said: “You have confirmed your support for this approach, recognising that this process necessarily begins with the recruitment and appointment of a chair with the future role in mind. I am grateful for your agreement to remain in post until such time as the appointment is made.”

The new Monitor board, like the national commissioning board, is expected to have a mix of executive and non-executive members. The present Monitor board is all non-executive.

A reply from Mr Bundred said: “I fully recognise the new Monitor envisaged by the proposals in your white paper will be a very different body from the one I was appointed to chair… It will have not just a wider role but a completely new set of functions and as such I acknowledge that it is appropriate for this new body to have a new board.”

University College London Hospitals Foundation Trust chief executive Sir Robert Naylor said a chair and chief executive should be appointed as quickly as possible. He said Monitor needed strong leaders to oversee the requirement for all trusts to be authorised as foundations.

Foundation Trust Network director Sue Slipman said: “Now they have made that decision [to recruit], the sooner the better for the chair to be in there. In the absence of a strong chair the new organisations will end up being shaped by bureaucrats who don’t have regulatory experience.”

Meanwhile, senior Department of Health sources have told HSJ the recruitment of a chair and chief executive to the commissioning board will not happen until “the spring”, with the hope of having both in post “by October”. Unconventionally, recruitment of both is expected to be concurrent.

The board is due to be established in shadow form next April and take full control a year later. The current recruitment timetable would mean that it would be without substantive leadership for the first six months of its shadow existence.

The timing places Dame Barbara Hakin, who is developing the framework for GP commissioners as DH managing director of commissioning development, in a strong position to vie for the chief executive’s post.

It also sits well with the end of NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson’s contract next September.

NHS Confederation acting chief executive Nigel Edwards said: “This reorganisation desperately needs strong leadership. David Nicholson and his team are performing their difficult role very well but failure to have a new board in place until relatively close to its start date will be a concern.”

A DH spokeswoman said: “The timetable for recruitment and appointments has yet to be decided.”

Separately, HSJ has learned the passage of the Health Bill, which was expected to be published next month, has been delayed. The second reading of the bill will not be until January, and it may not be passed until after the summer parliamentary recess. It means a longer wait before plans for the new system become clearer.