Senior NHS managers are laying themselves open to accusations of lack of commitment by “job hopping”, according to Royal College of Nursing chief executive Peter Carter.

Mr Carter, a former chief executive of Central and North West London Mental Health Trust, contrasted the amount of time senior NHS managers spent in post with consultant surgeons and university deans.

If they moved as frequently as senior NHS managers “people would say ‘where’s the commitment?’,” he said in a seminar on motivation, management and leadership organised by King’s College London.

He added: “The culture should be that [when a senior NHS manager is appointed] you’re going to be there for several years; that you’re going to see your plans through to fruition. The expectation should not be that you’re going to job hop.”

Mr Carter said he was “proud to have been an NHS manager” and that there were “lots of very good managers in the NHS”.

However, he added that there were “copious examples of where criticism [of managers] is deserved”. Part of the blame lay in the “huge turnover and lack of commitment” among senior NHS managers, he claimed.

But Mr Carter also highlighted what he saw as a heavy-handed approach taken by some strategic health authorities to their handling of trust managers. Mr Carter described the departure of Julian Nettel from his position as chief executive of Barts and the London Trust over SHA concerns about the trust’s performance as “pretty stupid”.

Additionally Mr Carter said he did not think the answer to concerns over NHS management was to move doctors into senior management roles. “I don’t believe consultants have the skills and orientation to do the job. Most of them [who have made the move] have struggled,” he said.