Patient and public representatives have raised concern that the NHS Commissioning Board may appoint an informatics specialist rather than a “true patient champion” to a senior director role.

National Voices, the umbrella group for patient and service user organisations, was responding to the board’s advert for its national director of patient insight, published this week.

The advert says the “purpose of this role is to develop and deliver national strategies on public and patient engagement, intelligence and informatics”.

It adds: “You will need to use sophisticated information on patients’ views and experiences to really understand their needs and help us shape services in response.”

It also says candidates should have “extensive skills in the use of informatics to improve services”.

National Voices policy director Don Redding told HSJ he welcomed the board’s plan – expressed in the advert – to “act as a champion for patients and their interests”.

However, he said the board needed a senior individual with responsibility for patient and public involvement. Mr Redding said the requirement for informatics skills may exclude experts in that field from the job.

He said: “The way this role is described, demanding strategic informatics knowledge… means there is a danger they are going to reduce their chance to find a true patient champion.

“We would like to see someone in the role who understands what it is to be a patient, be vulnerable and need support, and who knows the reality of what is and isn’t available for people managing their condition.”

Those linked with the position include Tim Kelsey, the co-founder of Dr Foster Intelligence, which championed the publication of NHS information for patients. Mr Kelsey is now Cabinet Office director for transparency and open data.

Strategic health authority directors are also potential candidates, ahead of the organisations’ abolition in April next year. HSJ understands NHS Midlands and East policy and strategy director Stephen Dunn, who is leading the organisation’s work on patient experience, is likely to apply.

Other possible candidates could come from the voluntary and charity sector.

An NHSCB spokesman said: “We absolutely want someone who can help the board get a deep and meaningful insight in to what patients need and want. Information is a tool to help us do that.”