The health secretary has appointed David Bennett - Monitor’s current interim chief executive - as the future chair of the competition regulator.

Mr Bennett has been Monitor interim chief executive since March 2010 and was previously non-political chief policy adviser to Tony Blair and head of the policy directorate and strategy unit at 10 Downing Street under Mr Blair.

His appointment as chair, as the organisation takes on a significantly different role, is likely to come as a surprise to many observers.

Andrew Lansley said in a statement: “I am delighted to announce that I have appointed Dr David Bennett to be the new chair of Monitor.

“The new economic regulator will have a significantly different set of responsibilities from Monitor in its current form and, with his wealth of experience, I am confident that David will successfully lead the organisation through the changes ahead.”

Mr Bennett said: After nearly 12 months as interim chief executive at Monitor I am delighted that the health secretary has asked me to take on the role of chair. The successful implementation of this next phase of reform for health and adult social care, if agreed by Parliament, will be critical to ensuring that the sector can continue to provide affordable, high quality care, and Monitor will play a central role in making sure this is so. 

 “I have been greatly impressed by the professionalism and dedication of the many colleagues I have worked with over this last year, both inside Monitor and beyond, and I look forward to continuing our partnership as we embark on this exciting and undoubtedly challenging next phase.”

Current chair Steve Bundred said in a statement: “I have greatly enjoyed working with David over recent months and I am pleased that Monitor will have the benefit of his expertise and understanding of the health sector as it prepares for and carries out its proposed new role as economic regulator for health and adult social care.

“David and I are now working out the details of how best to manage the transition to the new leadership, including the appointment of a permanent chief executive.”

HSJ last month reported that four candidates had been shortlisted, one of which was an “outsider” to the NHS.

Several foundation trust chief executives told HSJ they hoped the job would go to Bill Moyes, who stepped down as executive chairman last January when the post was split as part of governance changes. However if Mr Moyes was appointed, he would have needed to work closely with NHS chief executive and NHS Commissioning Board chief Sir David Nicholson.