A hospital trust has been criticised for appointing a chief executive without allowing other potential candidates to apply for the post.

West Hertfordshire Hospitals Trust appointed Jan Filochowski last September, two years after he had moved there as interim chief executive on secondment from his role as a turnaround specialist at NHS South East Coast.

More could have been done… to ensure that the appointment process fully met the standards expected at this level

The permanent job was not advertised and Mr Filochowski, who was being paid at least £246,000 at the time, did not undergo a formal interview for the position.

An independent report, commissioned by NHS East of England and published this month, concluded the trust should have set up an appointment panel, even though Mr Filochowski stood a strong chance of securing the job.

The report says that the trust believed it was acting in the best interests of the public and taxpayer by appointing a highly skilled candidate, whose departure would have been “catastrophic” according to non executive directors. It also sought legal advice before making the appointment.

In a confidential letter seen by HSJ, NHS East of England chair Keith Pearson told West Hertfordshire chair Professor Thomas Hanahoe that, while Mr Filochowski had “considerable skills and experience”, other candidates should have been considered.

Mr Pearson said: “More could have been done… to ensure that the appointment process fully met the standards expected at this level.”

He has written to all trusts in the region stating there should always be an open appointments process for chief executives and executive directors, which should be discussed with the strategic health authority’s workforce director.

He also plans to speak to the Department of Health about whether guidance on the issue needs to be updated.

In a statement, trust director of communications David McNeil said: “The report confirms that [the trust] has the right man for the job.”

But he added: “The trust acknowledges that the report points out where the process did not comply with ‘very best practice’ and will ensure that this very best practice is embedded in future processes.”